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5 of the World’s Worst Marketing Mistakes

This article written by Team Umbrella features five of the world’s worst marketing blunders.Oops

When it comes to marketing campaigns, promotional packaging or launching new products not every company gets it right. In fact, it may come as a surprise to say that some of the worst marketing mistakes we’ve ever seen have come from the likes of beloved beverage brand Coca Cola and fitness giant Adidas. Here are five of the biggest marketing mistakes we’ve seen to date!

Fyre Festival


Known as the world’s biggest festival flop; Fyre Festival was one of the more recently documented promotional blunders we’ve seen. Tickets started at a staggering $100,000 and organizers of the event promised private planes, yachts and luxury villas but instead provided hurricane tents on a dirty construction site and the supposed celebrity chef-made meals were in fact; cheese sandwiches.

The recent Netflix documentary brought to light just how serious this particular marketing mishap was, and gave an in depth overview of the entire situation as well as the build up to the disastrous event that was organised by business man Billy McFarland.

Not only was Fyre Festival a complete disappointment to those that had purchased the tickets, but it also left a huge impact on the people of the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas which is where the event was held.

Chris Smith who directed the Netflix documentary stated that the organizers had engaged the local community to try and help them pull the festival off with hundreds of days of laborers working.

He quoted “The organizers had six to eight weeks to pull off something that should have taken close to a year, but what was most surprising to me was going to the Bahamas and seeing the aftermath of what was left behind and the effect on the people there.” Billy had failed to pay any of the workers on the island for their time or resources, leaving many individuals in an awful position.

As a result of this massive marketing fail, Billy McFarland was sued for $2.1 million and sentenced to 6 years in prison for fraud.

Pepsi Advert

One of the biggest marketing mishaps of 2018 was definitely the offensive and poorly received Pepsi advert featuring supermodel Kendall Jenner.


The advert represented a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest in which Kendall Jenner is seen handing a police officer a can of Pepsi in order to settle the issue at hand. This was seen as hugely offensive and insensitive as it used a serious subject in order to try and promote and sell a product. It was particularly offensive and upsetting to victims and was quickly pulled following the negative response it received.



Fitness and footwear giant Adidas caused public uproar back in 2017 with a badly worded and poorly timed email. Customers that took part in the 2017 Boston marathon received an email from the official sponsors of the event; Adidas with the subject line reading
‘congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!’

Although this may not initially seem offensive, and it obviously wasn’t intended to be; it came just a few years after the Boston Marathon bombing in which three people lost their lives and 250 were left seriously injured. Customer’s found it really distasteful and Adidas quickly issued apologies for any offense they had caused.



American video game company EA Sports made a huge mistake with their 2009 marketing campaign which could have easily been avoided. They sent out hundreds of gold brass knuckles to customers to promote ‘The Godfather’ without realizing that they are classed as illegal weapons in many of the American states they sent the items out to, including California where EA is based.

Once they realized what they had done, they had to have all of the packages returned which resulted in a lot of unhappy customers!

Coca Cola

Arguably one of the most infamous marketing mistakes to date has to be back in April 1985 when Coca Cola decided to change the original recipe of their beloved beverage.

The public response was so negative that people were hoarding the original flavor and selling it on the black market for hugely inflated prices. The company’s call centers were also swamped with complaints and there were even threats of lawsuits. It wasn’t long before the original fizzy flavor returned and Coca Cola fans were happy again!

Author bio:

Team Umbrella are a promotional risk management agency that have a number of years experience in protecting promotional marketing campaigns for a number of different brands, businesses and agencies.


Fyre Festival Image –

Pepsi Ad —

Any other images were sourced from Shutterstock