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Unpopular Brands: Advertising Gone Wrong

Unpopular Brands: Advertising Gone Wrong

They say “any press is good press”, but… is it?

Thanks to the digital age we’re in, we’re rapidly made aware of brands that miss the mark when it comes to advertising. Before they realize what they’ve published, the damage has been done earning them a seat amongst the most unpopular brands. 

In a world where anything can catch a viral streak in minutes, businesses need to do a thorough job of reading the room (and the copy) before they hit “publish”.

Let’s take a look at 3 different instances where marketing missed the mark.

“Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”


The 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Apparently, the advertising team at Adidas forgot about that.

In 2017, an email went out congratulating runners for “surviving” the Boston Marathon. It had people furious, and rightly so. I’d say that was a touch insensitive. 

Adidas has been an official sponsor of the Boston Marathon since 1989 and has provided footwear and apparel to the runners of the race as the official supplier. Despite their email snafu, Adidas remains an official sponsor of the marathon through 2030. I’d imagine they’ve updated their content guidelines to reflect what they learned from this incident.


Bud Light

America’s flagship beer brand has taken massive hits after partnering with Dylan Mulvaney on April 1, 2023, to promote its beer. Outrage struck which resulted in a massive consumer boycott that is still ongoing. 

Typically, boycotts don’t last long, but this one appears to be raging in full force. Sales of Bud Light fell nearly 25% over the week ending on May 13, 2023. I’d say they’re a very unpopular brand right now. 

Consumers across the board are unhappy with Bud Light for a few reasons. It’s a hot-button political issue and social media has a firm grasp on it to divide the masses. Some consumers are demanding that beer simply remain… beer. Because of this snafu, consumers are willing to take their brand loyalty somewhere else, especially considering there are plenty of alternatives. 

In the same breath, the LGBTQ+ community was largely unimpressed with the brands’ inauthentic response that felt placatory. This advertising campaign has had massive consequences for the brand, and it may be a while before they see the sunshine again.

Real Beauty or Real Mistake?

2017 was a big year for bad advertising. Dove is a personal care brand that refers to itself as the “home of real beauty”. 


What soon became known as “Bottlegate” began as Dove’s mission to celebrate the many different shapes of a woman's body. While in theory, their mission made sense – all bodies are beautiful, no matter their shape or size. 

Well, that backfired. 

Consumers weren’t sure which of the bottles to buy, despite the contents being the same. Were they supposed to buy the bottles that represented their bodies? Quickly, Twitter took the brand by storm and people had a lot to say about the campaign. 



Dove attempted to liberate consumers with a product experience which only led to more self-doubt that felt a little patronizing. 

Dove is one of the not-so-lucky brands that dropped the ball not only once, but twice that year. 

Dove launched their “Real Beauty Campaign” in 2017 which caught the attention of the masses. The main purpose of this campaign (which originally began in 2004) was to encourage women from all walks of life to embrace their beauty, no matter their body shape, gender expression, or background. A truly important mission. 

This is why the Facebook ad promoting their product was so concerning. 

In the ad, an African American woman is depicted removing her brown t-shirt to reveal a white woman in a light beige shirt underneath. There are five different women altogether depicted in this ad that moves through the shirt-removing sequence. 

As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well, and rightfully so. Not only did Dove fail to see how their advertisement was racially insensitive, but they also failed to truly understand their audience. A quick Google search will prove that Dove has quite a poor track record, landing itself amongst the most unpopular brands.

Wrapping it up

Consumers are holding brands more accountable than ever. In advertisements, every word matters. One wrong step can be the difference between a successful brand and watching your hard work spiral in a toilet bowl. 

Brands have a responsibility to navigate the cultural and political current with care. Messaging needs to be on point, every time. Avoid making massive mistakes with your content – Hire a Writer instead. Want to learn how we can help get your message across? Contact us today.

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