Takeaways From Video Marketing Failures

Is there anything more cringeworthy than a terrible video marketing campaign? There have been countless throughout the years. Some have caused uproars, and some have been swept under the rug. Learn what went wrong with a few of these marketing strategies so as to avoid any potential future failures or controversies of your own.


In 1985, Coca-Cola launched their “New Coke.” Blind taste tests revealed people preferred Pepsi to Coke. So, they changed the formula to make it sweeter – more like Pepsi. Bill Cosby promoted the Coke in the commercial below, where he acts nearly speechless at how delicious he finds it.



Coke researchers didn’t make it clear to the taste testers that this New Coke would replace the classic Coke, rather than be in addition to it. There was massive consumer backlash. Protest groups formed and people were furious. The CEO at the time, Roberto Goizueta, has been called, “One of the dumbest executives in American business history.”


What Coke failed to consider was brand loyalty. The taste of the Coke didn’t matter as much as the symbolism and spirit of a classic, American Coke. In this case it was about the brand, not the product. They brought back the classic Coca-Cola just a few months later, and have had astronomically better campaigns since this catastrophe.




What can you learn from this mistake? Make sure you are crystal clear who your audience is and what they value. Be transparent with them, and do NOT overlook the power of brand loyalty and tradition.


A less well-known video marketing failure is that of Mellow Mushroom, a chain restaurant that sells pizza. They created several parody pharmaceutical ads in which Mellow Mushroom Pizza was presented as a medicine that could fix a number of illnesses (like indigestion and erectile dysfunction), and had several side effects (salivation, euphoria, etc). They were clearly attempting to be funny, but it was poorly done and came out corny at best and gross at worst.



It was number 6 on Digiday’s “10 worst ads of 2016” and number 2 on Vidyard’s “The top 5 worst video marketing fails of 2016.”


So what can we learn from this video marketing failure? Know your product, and use a strategy that matches. You probably don’t want to associate food with illnesses, even if it is a parody. Some ideas translate better on paper than on screen.




Kendall Jenner’s 2017 Pepsi fiasco is one of the most well-known video marketing failures of recent years. In the spot, the supermodel and Keeping Up With the Kardashians star prematurely leaves her photoshoot when she notices a rally in the streets. She hands a Pepsi to the police officer controlling the crowd, and everyone stops what they’re doing to cheer, high-five and hug.



This ad aired when the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining a lot of momentum, and thousands were very offended by the commercial’s message. It seemed to say that a young white girl with no ties to the movement could waltz into a peace rally from her photoshoot and fix everything with a Pepsi. It trivialized a massive issue and the obstacles and pain so many have gone through to make their voices heard.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter tweeted a picture of her father being pushed away by a white officer with the sarcastic caption, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”



Pepsi failed to consider the diversity of their consumers and potential controversy a political statement like this could cause. It was meant to be a positive message that associated Pepsi with peace and unity, but it came off as wildly insensitive and absurdly unrealistic. They apologized and retracted the video shortly after its release.


Overall, make sure you test your ads on people of different backgrounds and ethnicities to make sure your intended message is perceived correctly. If you approach anything political, you must be very careful and sensitive.




It’s important to be very mindful of your video marketing strategy. The very last thing you want to do is step on your audience’s toes or make them cringe. Be careful what you put out there, and run every video through many tests before releasing it.

Alanna Goodman is a marketing and communications intern at Green Buzz Agency. She would drink a classic Coke over Pepsi any day of the week.

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