It’s been a rough week for two key brands. Unfortunately, creating a memorable marketing campaign is a double-edged sword. Brands aren’t unfamiliar with courting controversy to sell more widgets. However, with every day that passes, the metaphorical snowball of digital social thought keeps growing. Gone are the days of newspapers and radio. In fact, social media is Yelp restaurant reviews on steroids.

Source: Bumble

Bumble attacks celibacy and faces backlash

Dating is inherently tricky to market. There are many pitfalls ranging from memorably controversial to PR nightmare. Bumble managed to step in the latter. First, here’s why these ads stirred up so much animosity:

There were a host of reasons why the ads received such strong backlash, namely the challenges of reproductive rights, the societal pressure to have sex and the rights of women to their bodily autonomy. The ads were also seen to stigmatize asexual people and those who actively choose celibacy, going against Bumble’s intersectional ethos. 

Natalie Fear, “Bumble admits it “made a mistake” on Creative Bloq

Upon seeing this ads, two things stood out immediately. It’s dicey to indirectly target a movement aimed at empowering women. Specifically, peeling back the layers of celibacy (within this context), you may find the 4B movement.

There’s always a man or brand trying to control women’s ability to navigate the world safely. Therefore, an attempt to erode that power to generate more app downloads is a cheap shot at best. Dating apps are built to exploit fantasy and vulnerability by leveraging the power imbalance of patriarchy.

It’s not that women don’t want to date and enter partnerships. They’re simply asking for the bare minimums: respect, safety, and choice. Moreover, I believe this is an example of why more diversity in marketing would reduce brand risk.

Apple forgets to ‘read the room’

Surprisingly, Apple stumbled with its recent spot for the iPad Pro. Undoubtedly, the ad takes a stab at the concept of creative destruction. In short, the destroying of old to make way for the new. Hot take: Apple’s mistake is reflective of two incredibly common things.

One, being too prescriptive in a creative process can create unintended consequences. For instance, hopping on a social media trend to illustrate a creative concept. It seems smart, but it’s hard to see the full picture when you’re too close to it.

Secondly, without emotions we are flying blind. When I watch the commercial, I feel weird. It’s off-putting. It’s hard to name why. You feel it in your gut. It makes me wonder how this all unfolded. Was there anyone in the room that raised their hand?

I didn’t like the ad, but I didn’t hate it. Though, I never want to see it again. For all the thought leadership buzzing around, I wonder how the ad actually performed with consumers. It’s clear that the iPad is for creative amateurs and professionals alike. I wonder if the feeling I experienced is true across the board.

Key lessons from Bumble and Apple missteps:

  • Prioritize your customer. Ensure that your creativity and revenue goals align with the needs of your top stakeholder—the customer. It’s fine to be cheeky, but never at the expense of alienating your audience.
  • Get an outside perspective. When you’re deeply involved in a project, seek external opinions. Being too close to something you care about can cloud your objectivity.
  • Act with integrity. Mistakes happen, but they don’t have to be disastrous. Addressing a minor issue promptly can prevent it from escalating into a major problem.
  • Promote diversity. Intentionally build diverse teams to reduce the risk of creating ads that miss the mark and ensure more inclusive marketing.