The biggest brand fails of 2016
By Tanya Dua
Despite being more cautious this year, brands still ended up with plenty of egg on their faces. As 2016 winds down, we look back at some of the more cringe-worthy moments brought to us by brands that should have known better. Whether through a tone-deaf campaign or straight-out plagiarism, these marketers left us wondering what they were thinking.
Here are some of the biggest brand fails of 2016:
Retailers lifting designs
From Zara to Forever21 and Topshop to even plus-size darling Lane Bryant, a number of retailers came under fire for artistic theft this year. In June, Forever 21 was slammed for copying Kanye West’s Life of Pablo shirts. Zara, meanwhile, landed itself in hot water when it allegedly stole some 40 designs from independent illustrators, designers and smaller brands. But that wasn’t it. In September, Topshop was forced to pull a $700 leather jacket from its online store after complaints on social media that it used a punk band’s logos without permission whereas Lane Bryant found itself in the midst of a social media storm when artist Shantell Martin wrote a Facebook post accusing the brand of lifting her designs.
Samsung’s PR disaster
Samsung had an explosive year. You know you have a disaster on your hands when your brand starts to be perceived as a threat to public safety. With hundreds of reported cases of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 devices overheating, Samsung became the hottest brand of 2016 for all the wrong reasons. Exploding batteries may have triggered Samsung’s brand crisis, but the smartphone maker’s woes were further exacerbated by other brands, including transit authorities like New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and airlines like Singapore Airlines all telling passengers not to turn on Note 7s or charge them on flights, buses and trains. All the negative press severely affected the brand online, with over 75 percent of the digital content engagement around the brand being negative in the immediate aftermath of it announcing a recall on Sept. 2.
StreetEasy’s subway gaffe
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 22, 2016
Tongue-in-cheek advertising on the New York City subway can either propel your brand to great heights (Thinx and Casper have run pitch-perfect campaigns there) or end up completely backfiring. In the case of real estate portal StreetEasy, unfortunately, it ended up being the latter. The campaign’s ads parodied stereotypes of the city’s neighborhoods with easy jokes, like rats and roaches in the East Village. The brand ran afoul of Twitter with this sexist ad, though: It implied that a finance bro should dump his presumably frumpy college girlfriend once he gets a raise and moves into the bro-y Meatpacking District neighborhood. The brand was forced to apologize.
Brands being sexist
— Tanya Moodie (@tanyamoodie) February 24, 2016
It’s almost 2017, and some brands still don’t get that …read more