By the time you see an ad from a retailer, restaurant, or consumer brand, it has been looked over and picked at by countless people at an ad agency and the company’s internal marketing team. The same goes for a piece of merchandise. Products can’t escape the scrutiny of a big team of buyers, merchandisers, and, of course, store workers.
So it’s baffling how often major companies trying to be hip or funny put out an ad or sell a product only to find out it is offensive to countless prospective customers. This past year has been chock full of cringe-worthy gaffes by retailers and restaurants that had them scrambling to apologize and contain the PR damage. Some of them seemed to make light of the Holocaust, while others were interpreted as encouraging rape.
Here is a look back at some of the big marketing and merchandising misfires by top retailers in 2015, in no particular order.
Let these disasters serve as lessons as big brands head into 2016.