People are too easily offended these days, or so we’re told. So in this atmosphere of political correctness, you’d think brands would be obsessive about not, say, including accidental references to Nazis or child rape in their festive product labels. You’d be wrong.
#8. Bud Light Attempts To Remove “No” From Your Vocabulary, If You Catch Our Drift
Bottling the diluted menstrual pee of humiliated Clydesdales and turning it into America’s best-selling beer is no paltry accomplishment, but that doesn’t mean Bud Light can rest on its laurels as it sits the Shitty Lager Throne. That’s why Anheuser-Busch dreamed up their #UpForWhatever campaign: In a bid to stay relevant with their “slip some creepy old dude a 10-spot to grab you a sixer at the 7-Eleven” demographic, they wrapped their Bud Light bottles in slogans worthy of being tagged all over the Twitter hashes, or whatever the hell it is kids do nowadays.
It went swimmingly for nearly two years, right up until some marketing prodigy dreamed up this little doozy:
“The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” Yeah. What the creative minds at Anheuser-Busch swore was a harmless reference to the fact that their product could lighten inhibitions and result in maybe, we don’t know, some harmless BASE jumping or something (DISCLAIMER: DO NOT BASE JUMP WHILE DRUNK), came off to the entirety of the brain-having world as a fervent endorsement of alcohol-assisted rape.
Twitter immediately lit up with a more appropriate hashtag — #NoMeansNo — Anheuser-Busch issued an official apology, and the production lines cranking out the offending labels went down quicker than a Bud Light fan after trying his first big boy beer.
And speaking of creepily sexual marketing choices …
#7. Woolworths Names Their Line Of Girls’ Beds After A Novel About Sex With An Underage Girl
You probably know Woolworths as the store that banished George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (though from all of them or just the one is still unclear). You probably know Lolita as the controversial novel about the entirely too whimsically named Humbert Humbert having boatloads of sex with his 12-year-old stepdaughter.
Put the two together, and you end up with the particleboard pile of awkwardness that is the Lolita Midsleeper Combi:
There is no conceivable caption here that doesn’t result in us going straight to hell.
Once you’ve had a chance to get over the initial shock (that Woolworths still exists), we should give the chain credit where credit is due: As soon as a parenting website raised a kerfuffle about the exceptionally repulsive taste of the product’s branding, Woolworths removed it from their shelves and promised to find out what in the exact fuck the supplier had been smoking while naming it.
And now that we’ve given them some credit, let’s yank it straight out from under them: In their official response, Woolworths claimed that absolutely no one at the company was aware of the statutory-rapey connotation of “Lolita,” and in fact none of them had ever heard of the book (or either of the two movies based on it). Somebody slept through English class.
You’d think you’d remember a school book cover that is practically child porn.
Hey, speaking of English class …
#6. Anti-Drug Campaign Pencils Promote A Very Pro-Drug Message (With Use)
Assuming you went to public school at any point since Ronald and Nancy Reagan combined into an illicit-substance-slaying Voltron in the 1980s, you probably remember having the “say no to drugs” message clobbered into your delicate cranium. Possibly the only good thing about such demonstrations was the free anti-drug paraphernalia used to peddle the message, and for one fourth-grade class in Ticonderoga, New York, it was no different. They got free pencils!
You’ve probably seen them pop up in your Facebook feed and assumed they were Photoshopped:
With every crank, the kid became more addicted to the devil weed.
Somehow, not a single adult at the Bureau for At-Risk Youth realized that their anti-drug pencils became far less anti as they were sharpened — it took a 10-year-old student to point that out. The organization immediately reprinted the pencils in the opposite direction, thereby driving countless fourth-graders incurably mad when their secondhand pencils read “Too Cool To.” Too cool to what? TOO COOL TO WHAT?!
#5. Nike “Gold Digging” Shirt Honors Female Olympians (By Implying They Have Sex For Money)
At the 2012 Olympics in London, the U.S. women were picking up so much gold that it looked as if they’d need to charter a friggin’ cruise liner to lug it all home. This was the perfect opportunity for Nike, practically the face of athletic success, to capitalize on the situation by selling a T-shirt for women to wear as they celebrated said athletic success while wrapped in the lazy arms of their La-Z-Boys.
In a move that is written in bold, red Sharpie at the tippy top of every sane marketing executive’s “DO NOT DO” list, Nike inexplicably decided to channel their inner Kanye West:
“Now, we ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger.
(We’re branding it on her chest in stylish gold foil.)”
That’s right: Nike commemorated the monumental achievement of some of history’s most skilled athletes by trying to sell women shirts announcing to the world that they’re fucking people for money. Nike tried to pass the stunt off by saying they were just being ironic, a phrase that Alanis Morissette might define as “trying to capitalize on their relationship with Kanye to help move his stupid Air Yeezy sneakers.”
Who would have thought? It figures.
#4. Walmart Features A Badass Skull T-Shirt (Spoiler: The Skull Is A Nazi SS Logo)
There is no activity in existence — whether it be playing the cowbell in a garage band or picking up Hot Pockets down at the Walmart — that can’t be made to look badass by wearing a sufficiently skully T-shirt. And it’s funny we mentioned Walmart, because it just so happens that’s the A-1 perfect spot to adorn yourself in a manner befitting ’80s metal bands and your asshole cousin alike.
Back in 2006, they somehow managed to find clothing racks capable of withstanding the red hot manliness emanating from this bad boy:
Does that design look familiar to you? It did to Maryland blogger Rick Rottman when he spotted the shirts at his local Wally World. Here, let’s see if the insignia rings any bells when you see it on the band of this cap:
Opposite of awesome!
Now that the sense of dread is building in your gut, let’s drive that motherfucker home. Here’s a photo of one of the evilest bags of dicks ever to squirm the face of the Earth, Heinrich Himmler, wearing that very hat:
Awesome just withered and died under his bespectacled stare.
Specifically, that symbol is a Totenkopf, and the one plastered all over Walmart’s T-shirts was the version preferred by the most malevolent of the already indescribably awful Nazis: Hitler’s SS. The ones with the dirtiest hands even called themselves Totenkopf Squadrons. The fact that the T-shirt had “Since 1978” printed beneath this symbol goes to show that one of the job requirements for a discount department store fashion designer is a truly illustrious ignorance of history.
After Rottman pointed out the rock-fucking idiocy of glorifying such a symbol, Walmart immediately recalled the shirts, saying, “Respect for the individual is a core value of our company” — assuming their company doesn’t employ said individual, of course.
And while we’re on the subject of Nazis …
#3. Amazon Graces Commuters’ Asses With Nazi And Imperial Japan Imagery
Imagine, if you will, an adorable, elderly Jewish couple. We’ll call them Simon and Gena. Though Simon and Gena have made a long, mostly happy life for themselves in New York City, the tattoos on their forearms are an everlasting reminder of the horrors that the basest of human depravity can inflict upon an unsuspecting world. Now, imagine this delightful old couple toddles onto a commuter train one day and this is the only seat available:
Yes, that’s an American flag with a Nazi eagle and Iron Cross in place of the 50 stars. And as they reeled to the opposite side of the car in the throes of an advertising-induced Auschwitz flashback, they’d see this:
Land of the Rising SON OF A BITCH!
Gracing the subway with the symbolism of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was the brainchild of Amazon Prime. It was all a stunt to promote their new series The Man In The High Castle, based on the Philip K. Dick novel that posits, “What if America had lost World War II?”
Of course, you — being the well-read and Internet-savvy epitome of connectedness that you are — know all that. But expecting the average New York City commuter to know all that … well, no offense to the average New York City commuter, but that was a bit much to expect. Amazon pulled the signage after Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “irresponsible and offensive,” thereby unknowingly saving the psyches of our adorable (if hypothetical) elderly couple.
OK, one last Nazi entry before we move on …
#2. Hallmark Makes Gift Wrap For Hanukkah … With Accidental Swastikas In The Pattern
Though holiday gift-giving is generally considered more of a Christian thing — what with their jolly old elves and Coca-Cola and baby Jesuses and whatnot — Jews exchanging gifts at Hanukkah isn’t exactly uncommon. And when decidedly unhypothetical Jewish grandma Cheryl Shapiro went down to her local Walgreens to pick up some Hanukkah-friendly wrapping paper back in 2014, she was in for a shock:
“What’s so wrong with that?” you’re probably asking. “That looks way fancier than the Sunday funnies my grandmother used!” Well, let’s zoom in on the pattern:
Happy Hanu-CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS BULLSHIT?
Yep, this wrapping paper was hiding scads of tiny swastikas. Now, we get that this was probably an honest mistake. You can probably pick out lots of different shapes in the maze-like pattern (the company says it borrowed the design from a Chinese vase). But A) this paper is being sold around Hanukkah in traditional Hanukkah colors — the stuff is going to get bought by Jewish people to wrap gifts in — and B) there are actually lots of patterns you can use that don’t involve repeated swastikas. We dare say that there is literally an infinite number of such patterns in the universe.
So we can’t decide if this was hilariously bad luck or some wrapping paper designer being a wisecracker and figuring nobody would catch it. Either way, it led to a nationwide recall.
#1. Coca-Cola Suggests That All Indigenous Mexicans Need For Christmas Is More Sugar
Be it giving birth to the cartoon that defined a significant chunk of your childhood or inducing a worldwide urge to hug a bloodthirsty beast, Coca-Cola and Christmas go hand-in-hand. Coke squeezed out a real stinker for Christmas of 2015, however, by releasing a commercial in Mexico depicting a group of beautiful, young white people dropping everything to travel to a remote area of Oaxaca, construct a Coke-themed Christmas tree for Mexico’s indigenous Mixe people, and give them the gift of buttloads of 20-ounce Cokes.
Idyllic, right? Merry motherfucking Christmas and all that crap! Actually, the commercial set consumer rights advocates and health groups on the offensive, because there’s a whole lot of wrong going on that may not be apparent upon first glance. First and most obvious, the ad’s giving off a serious white savior vibe by depicting a group of (presumably American) white folks strolling in to kick the natives straight in the dignity.
Also, at least one of them had been partaking in the wrong kind of Coke.
Even worse is the fact that Mexico’s indigenous population is suffering from a serious soda problem. See, while Americans are gradually beginning to wake up and realize that gulping down bucketfuls of sugar maybe isn’t the way Mother Nature intended us to quench our thirst after all, in Mexico obesity and diabetes are erupting like Mentos mixed with Diet Coke — and that’s thanks in no small part to ultra-sugary drinks. So delivering coolers full of Coca-Cola to an indigenous Mexican community would be like dropping off pallets of Mexican Brown at a heroin rehab.
Which, now that we think about it, may have been the precise intention all along.
For more campaigns we can’t believe someone signed off on, check out 5 Corporate Promotions That Ended In (Predictable) Disaster and The 5 Biggest Disasters In The History Of Marketing.