Day after day, another politician or celebrity makes an inappropriate or outrageous tweet or statement that makes the headlines. Only some of these people end up with their reputation and career in tatters, where others seem to become more famous and popular.

The most obvious of these are politicians who can reach out to the biases of voters who share those views; this week alone we have seen many from the Master of Nasty, Donald Trump, as well as Conservative candidate for London Mayor, Susan Hall, who suggested Jewish Londoners are ‘frightened’ of the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan; and GB News presenter Laurence Fox, who used obscene language about journalist, Ava Evans. Although Laurence has now been sacked from GB news, we will wait to see if he disappears or grows a different audience. Take Jeremy Clarkson who lost his job on Top Gear for punching a producer and went on to outrageously insult Meghan Markel in a column he wrote for The Sun. He is still one of the most popular and successful television presenters in the world.

The examples above were all premeditated offensive statements that have been used as marketing – whether it works or not – and if you google for more examples, there are far too many. Some people lost their jobs, others ended up in prison, and some have got away with it – but all have been hurtful and negatively affected other people.

I had a look at some actual marketing campaigns that backfired due to offensive material. Although slightly more subtle, the insulting statement is still there…

Here are a couple from Pepsi and Doce & Gabbana, where not only the companies lost money and reputation, but the starring supermodels also had to apologize to save their careers.

  • In 2017, Pepsi released an ad that featured Kendall Jenner joining a protest and giving a police officer a can of Pepsi. The ad was widely criticized for exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • In 2019, Dolce & Gabbana released an ad campaign that featured Chinese model, Zuo Ye struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks. The ad was criticized for being racist and offensive.

Conclusion of this little ramble – even for the people who do well with bad behaviour marketing, they are all known for being ‘not nice’ – and for most people and corporations it doesn’t work out well in the end….