5 Epic YouTube Marketing Fails (And How to Avoid Them!)

YouTube: it’s the second largest search engine on the planet. Why wouldn’t you want to leverage that kind of audience?

But it’s also one of the most competitive ad markets on the planet. And if you fail on YouTube, you fail miserably.

I’ve got your back, however. I’m here to present the five worst YouTube marketing failures in the history of advertising. (And I’ll also show you how to avoid them.)

1. The Chevy Cruze Millennials Ad (Failing to Understand Your Audience)

Millennials get a bad rap. We’re known by many stereotypes.

Time magazine actually named us “The Me Me Me Generation” in an inane attempt to sell their magazine to baby boomers (probably the only people who read the print version of their magazine anyway).

And many of us are pretty frustrated about the incessant denigration of our ilk. Yet, while we like to take to social media and gripe about the unfair stereotypes, we don’t need a car company sympathizing with us while trying to sell us a car.

Chevrolet tried this tactic and failed miserably. They even went as far as to bring in some “real millennials” to “connect” with their audience.

The commercial centered around a fake focus group study. It rapidly switched back and forth between several groups of millennials. These included a Miley Cyrus look-a-like, a guy with a man bun (so 2015), and two mustachioed hipsters wearing broad-brimmed hats fit for Ranger Smith or a Canadian Mountie.

The host of the show immediately said: “Since you’re millennials…” What? Couldn’t we tell you’re stereotyping a generation just by the absurd costumes you’ve had these people wear?

And then he proceeded to show supposed stills from a potential car commercial featuring stereotypical Millenials. Of course, the real “millennials” scoffed at every picture.

The ad concluded with the host asking, “So, millennials don’t want an ad that tries to appeal to them, they want a car.” And an airplane hangar door split open in front of these said Millenials to reveal the new Chevy Cruz.

It’s fairly obvious that Chevy doesn’t get the millennial generation. But it’s also fairly understandable why they tried.

Don’t Use Stereotypes

If you do a quick Google search of the word millennial, you’ll see hundreds of posts about millennials. Go to Ahrefs, and you’ll see these articles go viral almost instantly.

It’s super tempting to use generational conflict and stereotypes to boost your YouTube marketing campaign. But if you don’t get it just right, you’ll miss the mark.

Instead, appeal directly to your audience without naming your audience. If you want to appeal to millennials, just do what you would do for any other generation, entertain us or inform us.

Don’t try to sympathize with your audience or you might inadvertently make fun of your audience.

2. And 3. Pepsi’s Kendal Jenner Ad and the Secret Deodorant Ad (Trying Too Hard to Be Socially Conscious)

If you were on the internet this year at all, you would remember the tone deaf Kendal Jenner Pepsi ad with perfect clarity. (And apparently, Kendal and Kylie want it forever on YouTube despite Pepsi pulling it from their own channel.)

But this was a perfect example of a business trying to be socially conscious and failing miserably.

I won’t go into too much detail here. But suffice it to say, Kendall Jenner and a commercial full of generic protestors approaching a line of smug New York Police officers to assuage their fears with Pepsi didn’t go over too well with Pepsi’s target audience.

Secret Deodorant also took on social issues poorly this year with their #stresstest campaign commercial “Raise”.

It features a young woman with nerdy glasses, flustered blonde hair, and a disheveled blue suit and white blouse pep-talking herself in the mirror. She’s trying various “male boss approaches.”

It’s a cliche film bathroom moment. After a minute of talking to one’s self, the character hears a toilet flush in one of the stalls.

The person in the stall comes out and there’s an awkward moment while they wash their hands. Then they say, “You can do it.”

As the character leaves, words appear on the screen. “At 3 o’clock Lucy does her part to close the wage gap.”

Avoid Social Issues

While this could have gone in my number one slot, it’s also a social issue. While you want to appear socially conscious, commercials like the ones above come off as patronizing.

I’d say avoid social issues altogether. But if you want to run ads featuring social issues, highlight how YOU are being socially conscious. Don’t try to “be bold” and “make a stand” with some message.

You are in grave danger of missing the mark and offending the group you’re trying to help.

4. The McDonalds Channel US (Going Too Big, Even for McDonald’s)

The content creator game on YouTube is fierce. Nearly 300 hours of video gets uploaded every minute.

So, unless you’re paying to get your content in front of eyeballs or you have an amazing, out of this world social media presence, relying on entertainment content to rival the likes of Spike or RedBull won’t get you anywhere.

This is the story of McDonald’s Channel Us. Yeah, you read that right, even McDonalds, with all their clown shoes full of money couldn’t make an entertainment channel for young adults fly.

Why? Because they aren’t an entertainment company, they’re a burger joint. And unless you partner with a major entertainment brand like Spike, you’ll take more time gaining a YouTube channel audience than it’s worth.

I’m not saying don’t create a YoutTube channel. But YouTube marketing should remain just that. Marketing.

Don’t try to produce edgy shorts or fun facts listicles hoping to “make it big” on YouTube unless you’re a professional video production company. You can do those things, but don’t bank on the fact your channel will become the next YouTube sensation.

Stick to the stuff of ad rolls and you’ll do just fine.

5. The Coopers Religio-Political Blunder (Mixing Religion, Politics, and Your Company)

This should be a no-brainer. But controversy is tempting.

In March of 2017, Coopers, an Australian beer company, came under fire for a Bible Society ad. It featured two liberal Australian politicians debating marriage equality while drinking Cooper beer. the company claims it didn’t sponsor the ad.

This has “wrong” written all over it and I really shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t mix politics, religion and business in a YouTube marketing campaign. Just don’t.

The beer company in question has since distanced itself from the ad, even though evidence suggests otherwise.

YouTube Marketing: Stay Safe Out There

The main lesson to learn from all of this is stay safe. Know where your boundaries are when it comes to YouTube marketing campaigns.

Have you experienced any YouTube marketing failures? Let me know.



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