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And Then There Were None: 8 Content Marketing FAILS

content marketing fails

Learning content marketing is a bit like learning to ride a bike, once you know how, your chances of getting hit by a truck go through the roof. What you’re about to see is just how bad a content marketing/branding campaign can be. Hopefully, we can learn from their horrible examples and obtain a modest chance to steer clear of their wreckage. And away we go.

Ogilvy India

Perhaps you recall the young middle eastern girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by Taliban morality enforcers for the crime of going to school while female. She became somewhat of an international sensation.

So, don’t try to understand the motivation behind this one. The Indian mattress company, Ogilvy, created an ad spot featuring an animation of Yousafzai being shot in the noggin, landing on one of the company’s mattresses, and “bouncing back” apparently renewed by her contact with the miraculous mattress.

The lesson here is, don’t be disgusting.

Malaysia Airlines

In 2014 Malaysia Airlines was plagued with PR problems due to a deadly duo of unfortunate crashes. Apparently, at M.A. they teach pilots to steer straight into turbulence. They decided to craft an ad that encouraged passengers to draft a bucket list before boarding. They even made a contest out of it to see who could come up with the best bucket list.

The lesson we take away from this advertising turd burger is–don’t remind customers of the very worst thing that can happen when using your product.


In a ham-handed attempt at being progressive, the classic work-pants manufacturer came out with the slogan, “hotness comes in all shapes and sizes.” Unfortunately, the visual component of the campaign featured three anorexically skinny models in blue jeans.

This was a disappointment not only for plus sized ladies but also for the rest of us who had to listen to the autistic screeching of identity academics. It was a lose-lose situation.

The lesson here is, if you’re going to signal virtue, you must exhibit said virtue.


This one’s not even funny.

In another failed virtue signal, DiGiorno’s pizza decided to try their hand at tackling the really big issues. Their target: domestic violence. Right off the bat, you’re hearing bad-idea-jeans in the back of your mind.

They put together an ad that portrayed what appeared to be a woman as the victim of a domestic abuse situation. The sequence was vague and tried to avoid controversy. Instead, their tone-deafness and squeamishness drove them straight into a wall. The ad closed with the hashtag, “#WhyIStayed.”

Why did she stay? For the freaking pizza? It’s unbelievable.

The lesson here. Stay away from touchy social issues. You’re not Dr. Phil. You’re freaking pizza.


This company is rife with problems. They had a good thing going with their Quik rabbit. Kids like the drink. Parents aren’t afraid of it. They should have left well enough alone. But they didn’t.

They created an app designed to give people chocolate bunny ears. The idea was to get knuckle heads to take chocolate-bunny-ear-enhanced selfies on National Bunny Ears Day. The problem is, no one knows what National Bunny Ears Day is. Even now. No one has heard of it. No one downloaded their app.

The lesson here is, connect your messaging to something people know about.


If there’s one thing software companies don’t comprehend, it’s that people like to feel as if they actually own and are in control of the devices they buy. Apple violated this boundary once again by giving people free music with no warning, no preliminary survey, and no attempt to ascertain the musical tastes of their targets.

You just turned on your iThing one morning and there was something new on it. It’s a bit like when your cat brings you a dead rat- except it’s a global mega-corporation displaying extremely stalker-like behavior. No thanks.

The lesson here is, don’t act like an ex-boyfriend with a brain injury.


This major French supermarket chain didn’t do itself any favors when it decided to forgo leveraging digital ad platforms. They were so confident in their staying power that they developed no online presence whatsoever. Their most up to date ad campaign is a series of billboards next to a soccer stadium somewhere southeast of Paris.

They were a big brand, a legacy brand, and if you haven’t noticed–you have no idea who they are.

The content marketing lesson we take away from these jokers is: do content marketing.


A few years ago, the city government of Adelaide, Australia, decided to redesign the city’s logo. The locals hated it. Officials had brought in a team of marketing pros to create the new logo, which is not really the problem. Where they went wrong was they only made one, and they foisted it on the city without doing any surveys or even asking anyone if they liked it.

Just one day, out of nowhere, a new city logo. It was an art-deco kind of monstrosity that totally sucked the heart out of the previous logo. It got a unanimous thumbs down from the city.

What we learn from this is, if you want to push a new logo on something as loyalty-driven as a city population, ask first. And for pity’s sake, do market testing before you invest in a lot of ugly new signage.

In Conclusion

All of these mistakes have one thing in common: the quality of being out of touch with the audience. If you’re going to do content marketing–and you are–you must know who you are speaking to: what they like, need, know, and believe. Short of that, darling, you’re whistling in the dark, and no one’s going to enjoy the tune.

DL M has 21 years of professional writing for print and online media and has 10+ years experience as a freelance fiction editor. He’s a content creator for major corporations covering all topics for a wide range of industries, specializing in white papers, research, news content. His specialty subjects include: current events, marketing, analytics, personal development, leveraging social media, SEO, business development, cloud computing, language, and politics.

Guest Author

By WriterAccess

Freelancer DL M

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