7 Branding and Design fails we can learn from

When it comes to branding and design, an idea might sound great in the conference room, but when you put these into practice and release them into the outside world the effect can be quite different. Things can fall apart pretty rapidly, sometimes with disastrous effects, and you might be left wondering how they possibly got signed off by creatives and brand professionals. If no one picks up on this throughout the process it can go horribly, horribly wrong. Here are some examples of the biggest brand faux pas of the past two years …

1. H&M

In January of 2018, the fashion retailer released an image on its website of a young African-American child modelling a green jumper with the slogan “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” By comparison, the white child pictured beside him wore a hoodie saying “Mangrove jungle survival expert”. Customers were outraged and torched them for this ‘tone deaf’ and many Twitter users called the company out for its lack of cultural sensitivity. H&M apologised and the image was removed from all H&M channels, but it was still available to buy online.

2. Tesco Buttermilk Carton

When you see it you can’t un-see it. Hone in on the negative space in the image and a particular body part comes to the fore. Created by Oisín Hurst, creative director at wonder.io this design fail was one of his first commissions. He designed it on a flat keyline and decided not to mock up the illustration, exclaiming it’s only buttermilk, “what could go wrong?”. This has been dubbed one of the biggest packaging mishaps to emerge on the internet. The oh-so unfortunate crease in the packaging pictured here only serves to make things worse. Always remember to review your design from a distance and get others to take a look at it before you send it off.

3. The Ropest Font

The Creator of Ropest fonts, Måns Grebäck has created over 256 type families, many of which are incredibly popular, but this design was unfortunately not such a success. The font is clearly meant to be made out of rope, spelling out the word Ropest, but the ligature between the ‘o’ and ‘p’ make the ‘o’ look like an ‘a’, which evidently looks like a very different word. It’s quite surprising that he didn’t pick up on this font alludes to rape. Whenever designing a word be sure to think about what words it has a similarity to, make sure you clearly avoid them, and check with others in your team before your release it.

4. Dolce & Gabbana

In November, the luxury fashion line released a marketing campaign full of ethnic stereotypes. In a bid to further appeal to luxury’s covetable Chinese consumers  D&G released an “instructional” video on the usage of chopsticks. An ad depicts a Chinese model attempting–and failing–to eat a variety of Italian dishes with chopsticks. People were outraged about the depiction of Chinese people as lacking in refinement and an understanding of culture. Cliché Chinese music and comical pronunciations of foreign names and words. D&G removed them from their social media channels.

The situation only got worse when a private DM conversation between founder Stefano Gabbana and the model in the video Michaela Tranova was posted on a fashion Instagram account. In it Gabbana says “the country of [lots of poop emojis] is China,” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” This post went viral and there was a vigorous backlash. The hashtag #BoycottDolce began trending on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce apologised to the public and were forced to cancel their Shanghai runway show, costing them millions.

5. BelleChic Tote Bag

Evidently when working with typography, it is of paramount importance that the message can’t be misinterpreted. Unfortunately, BelleChic, the online fashion retailer, produced a tote bag which very much gave off the wrong vibe. It’s clear what they were trying to achieve with the word ‘glitter’ in this suitable glittery finish, but by opting for this cursive font style the design is transformed something much more menacing. If you read it at speed it looks like ’Hitler’. Let this be a lesson to designers that you should always strive to maintain clear typography and refrain from overcomplicating things with an intricate font with a hard-to-read print material.

6. Pepsi

Of course, any list of branding blunders would be incomplete without that Pepsi ad. One of the most despised ads in recent memory, Pepsi’s two-and-a-half minute ad “Live for Now,” featuring Kendall Jenner in April 2017. In the ad, it appears that tension is building between protesters and police at a nondescript protest, but Jenner magically saves the day by offering one of the policemen a cold Pepsi. There are lots of confusing moments; Jenner throws her wig at a black woman standing beside her when she leaves the shoot and the protest signs say ‘Join the conversation’? Above all, it completely trivialises serious social race issues and Pepsi’s unsubtle attempt to peddle their products on the back of the pain and suffering of marginalised people is unsettling. There was a gargantuan backlash online, so Pepsi swiftly pulled the ad and issued a formal apology both to Kendall Jenner (what?) and anyone who was offended.

7. Quit Smoking Bus Poster

Here is a good example of how even the most earnest of designs can turn into a bad joke. The ‘Quit Smoking’ advert is positioned on the back of a school bus along with other signs, which are poorly placed in relation to one another, resulting in an unintended message. This is perhaps an error of execution and installation rather than an actual design flaw. If it were on its own on a dedicated billboard this wouldn’t have been an issue. This underlines the importance of communication between departments. Of course, in this situation there is only so much a designer can control, but when you know your work might be displayed in a number of different formats its key to test each possible variant.

If you liked this article and want help refining your marketing strategy then please feel free to get in touch.

Email: millie@daviesscothorn.com

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