Halloween is here and as the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, it’s time to revisit this year’s spookiest marketing blunders.
In 2023, we witnessed some truly horrifying campaigns that sent shivers down the spines of both consumers and marketers alike. From Prince Harry’s royal misstep to International Women’s Day controversy, and the eerie world of greenwashing, here are three marketing sins that left us all in a state of shock.
Prince Harry – ‘Spare’ Saga
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have had their fair share of challenges, and their marketing endeavours this year did not do them any favours. The launch of Prince Harry’s book, ‘Spare’ in January, following the Netflix series ‘Harry and Meghan’ became a spectacle of mockery and ridicule. Their attempt to share their story backfired when it came across as spoiled and entitled. To make matters worse, ‘Spare’ was spotted for half price at some book retailers on the day of its release, further undermining their efforts. The mishandling of these campaigns raised questions about whether a more professional approach could have prevented this royal debacle.
Greenwashing for Airlines – Lufthansa’s Turbulent Flight
In the era of sustainability and eco-consciousness, brands are under scrutiny like never before and are accused of misleading consumers with vague claims. Lufthansa fell into this trap when they introduced their new fare pricing options. In February they launched their ‘Green Fare’ that allowed travellers to offset 100% of their travel emissions, but climate activists cast doubts on the accuracy of these claims. Consumers are no strangers to greenwashing – those misleading claims of eco-friendliness that can leave us feeling like we’re making a difference in reality, it’s more of a marketing ploy. Lufthansa’s pricier fare scheme drew the wrong kind of attention. To add to their misery, Lufthansa released an ad claiming to be a saviour of the environment with their green policies. However, it was swiftly banned by the Advertising Standards Agency, causing negative coverage.
Earlier this month fast fashion retailer Boohoo sat on a panel at a Source Fashion event to discuss ethical clothing, but the truth couldn’t be silenced. Boohoo has been in the spotlight for accusations of low wages and poor conditions in its factories and supply chain. They were at the centre of a labour scandal in 2020 when reports revealed workers were paid less than minimum wage and subjected to unsafe working conditions. As they took the stage to talk about “strengthening ethical practices,” protesters took action to expose their history of ethical failures. Boohoo claimed to be “going the extra mile,” but those who know their history found this laughable and insulting.
As we prepare to don our costumes this Halloween, let these marketing sins of 2023 serve as cautionary tales for all marketers. They remind us that even the biggest brands and public figures can fall victim to marketing horrors when they don’t tread carefully in the treacherous world of public perception. Happy Halloween, and may your marketing campaigns be treats, not tricks!
Written by Becky Cleary, Social Media Account Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, digital and internal communications. For further information, email email@example.com or contact us here.