The 3 Biggest Brand Fails of 2017

Posted On December 14th, 2017 | 9:00am EST

We usually try to show you ways your brand can be better, but here’s a little crash course in things that you should never do.

Adweek recently revealed its list of some of the worst brand fails of the year. Take a lesson from these big brands on what not to do in 2018.


One of the most tone-deaf ads this year came from Pepsi in early April. The “Live for Now” commercial spot featured Kendall Jenner diffusing a (completely nondescript) protest by handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. This was problematic for several reasons, but its biggest offense was the trivialization of actual protests and recent concerns about police brutality. As Feminista Jones wrote, “Brands should never make light of social issues related to people’s suffering.”

Photo credit: Habeeb Akande


The personal care brand posted a social ad to their Facebook page in October depicting a black woman taking off a brown shirt and revealing a white woman in a white shirt. The ad was immediately met with outrage for the obvious racist tones. It was eventually revealed that Dove had made a full 30-second commercial that used seven women of different races and ages answering the question: “If your skin were a wash label, what would it say?” The transformation of a black woman into a white woman was only a snippet of the ad. A well-intended campaign, Dove didn’t seem to realize the implications of the short clip. In the age of the internet, brands need to be careful about every single shot.

Photo credit: @pipecork


Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, hoped to give users some world perspective with his Facebook Spaces VR app. Allowing users to tour the damage from October’s hurricanes in Puerto Rico, it came off as more exploitative than informative. As a rule of thumb, incorporating natural disasters into your content marketing is never a good idea.

If you want to know how to avoid brand fails like these, ask the experts at City/Studio for guidance.