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There’s no doubt that multicultural marketing is a complex and nuanced field. However, despite careful planning and execution, even the most well-crafted multicultural marketing campaigns can still fall victim to certain fails.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest fails in multicultural marketing ever to happen. We’ll explore what went wrong and why. So without further ado, let’s look at some of the biggest and most-famous multicultural marketing failures of all time!

Examples of Multicultural Marketing Fails 

1. Coca-Cola’s Tadpoles 

Even big brands make multicultural marketing blunders. In China, Coca-Cola launched a campaign and translated the name into Mandarin. The goal of the campaign was to localize soda and get people to form an emotional attachment to it without using Western influence and naming. The campaign failed because people just didn’t want to bite the wax tadpole. 

… You guessed it – translation wasn’t really up to the task. Coca-Cola used “Ke-Kou-Ke-La,” which means “bite the wax tadpole,” and pulled the campaign only to launch it later with a much better translation: “happiness in the mouth” (“ko-kou-ko-le”). 

Biggest Fails In Multicultural Marketing 2 01
Coca-Cola’s Mandarin translation means Bite The Wax Tadpole

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2. Pepsi & Kendal 

While we are on the topic of soft drinks makers, Pepsi also had its fair share of multicultural marketing fails. For example, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad was a complete disaster. The ad featured Kendall Jenner giving a can of Pepsi to a police officer during a protest. The ad was criticized for trivializing serious social issues like race relations and police brutality – while entire communities in the US were protesting against such racial biases. 
Normally, we would also applaud a company that wants to utilize current events and take over a trend, but HOW you do it is equally important. If they had done a focus group or performed a thorough target market research, maybe this marketing mistake wouldn’t have happened.

3. Dove Real Beauty – Real Blunder

Dove launched a campaign called “Real Beauty,” and at its core, the company started not just a great multicultural marketing campaign but a movement. The goal of the campaign was to show that women are beautiful no matter what they look like. We have often written about the success of Dove’s campaigns and went so far as to portray them as so successful that marketing agencies around the world should learn from them. 

But Dove, like many others, isn’t above multicultural marketing fails. 

In their recent Real Beauty saga, Dove portrayed a black woman removing her top and morphing into a white woman, who then removed her top and became an Asian woman. The Asian woman then removed her top, and we see the original black woman appear again. 

We all know what the idea they were gunning for was, and on paper, the script probably seemed innocent and sweet, but the way they portrayed it in the ad was anything but.

The campaign backfired, and many people called for Unilever and Dove product boycotts. Many women felt that Dove was trying to tell them that there was a white woman at their core, and they had to remove their masks and “remove their ethnicity.” Dove’s Real Beauty turned out to be a real controversy.

Social media was filled with quotes like: “Black women are dirty, and when they use Dove soap, they will be clean and WHITE.”

Don’t let your next marketing campaign become a meme for the wrong reasons. Speak with our Multicultural Marketing Specialist to ensure your campaigns resonate with diverse audiences. Schedule a Free Consultation Today!

4. D&G Has Done It Too

Dolce & Gabbana’s “DG Loves China” campaign was heavily criticized for its racist and offensive depictions of Chinese people. One ad showed a Chinese woman eating pizza with chopsticks, while another showed a Chinese man being ordered around by a white woman. The campaign was quickly pulled, but not before it had a chance to become one of the biggest multicultural marketing fails and losses. You know that you made a huge mistake when the government had to ostracize you.

5. The Gap in Gap’s Campaign

GAP wanted to emphasize a message that kids will be kids, and we should let them be different. They also wanted to portray an interracial family. However, what GAP did was controversial, and the lash-out was fast and loud. This ad campaign was criticized for being racist and offensive because it portrayed a white kid leaning on a black kid, which was construed as a metaphor for racial treatment everywhere.

GAp Racism
Gap’s controversial multicultural marketing fail.

Other Common Multicultural Marketing Fails

As a multicultural marketing agency, it’s important for us to break the glass ceiling and help companies utilize multicultural marketing and get all the benefits from it without blunders. Staying up-to-date on the latest multicultural marketing fails can help everyone realize their brand’s mistakes and learn from great multicultural marketing campaigns

One of the biggest multicultural marketing fails is when brands try to “whitewash” their ads. This happens when brands try to appeal to a wider audience by removing all references to race or ethnicity from their ads. However, this often backfires, as it can come across as racist or insensitive.

Another big multicultural marketing failure is when brands use offensive stereotypes in their ads. For example, using images of exoticized minorities or making fun of cultural customs. Not only is this offensive, but it can also be damaging to a company’s reputation.

Finally, one of the biggest multicultural marketing fails is when brands forget that not everyone is the same. They might try to target one specific ethnic group without taking into account that there are many different cultures within that group. This can lead to ads that are irrelevant or even offensive to certain audiences.

What Can You Do to Avoid Multicultural Marketing Fails?

So, what can you do to avoid these multicultural marketing fails? For starters, read our blog about multicultural marketing mistakes to avoid here. Remember, the biggest marketing fails happen to the biggest brands. 

However, if you have a business and want to utilize the full potential of minority marketing, you won’t survive a failure, especially if we’re talking about multicultural marketing. They will. Marketing approaches can vary, and we here at Phu Concepts are advocates of minority marketing and take every detail into account.

If you want to boost your small business or work on your medium business – we get results. Get in touch, and we can discuss your needs further.