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Pepsi's latest commercial ad sparked outrage for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. The ad features Kendall Jenner, a privileged cisgender white woman, attempting to make peace with officers during a protest by handing them a Pepsi. The company received backlash for glamorizing what it's like to protest—featuring only young, attractive protestors who are happily dancing and partying. "Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize," the company said in their apology statement. "We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout."
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Nivea pulled an advertisement in April that prompted comments about white supremacy and racism. The ad appeared in a Facebook post with the caption "Keep it clean, keep bright. Don't let anything ruin it, #Invisible." The campaign was meant to promote Nivea's "Invisible for Black and White" deodorant, but many people saw it as a racist PR nightmare. A spokeswoman for Nivea's parent company, Beiersdorf Global AG, apologized in a statement to the Washington Post, saying, "That image was inappropriate and not reflective of our values as a company. We deeply apologize for that and have removed the post. Diversity and inclusivity are crucial values of NIVEA. We take pride in creating products that promote beauty in all forms. Discrimination of any kind is simply not acceptable to us as a company, as employees, or as individuals."
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Who could forget when Samsung had to recall over 2.5 million Note 7 phones after reports of the device bursting into flames? Last September, Samsung promised their customers that they would replace the exploding phones with safer versions—but users soon discovered that the replacements were no better than the originals. Samsung decided to give up on the Note 7 entirely, and Nomura Securities predicted that the decision would cost Samsung $9.5 billion in lost sales. But it wasn't over for Samsung yet. This past March, a four-year-old girl suffered second-degree burns on her face when her father's Samsung Galaxy Note 4 exploded next to her. Consumers called out Samsung for their poor PR efforts to fix the situation, confirming that the company will face challenges regaining people's trust in the future.
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Dominos' brand was forever tarnished when two former employees posted a YouTube video in 2009. Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer filmed what they called a "prank" in the Dominos kitchen, which received over a million views before it was taken down. The video shows Setzer violating several health code standards while making food, including sticking cheese up his nose and farting on salami. Both were fired immediately and faced felony charges. Dominos spokesman Tim McIntyre said, "We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea."
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PR experts everywhere raked United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz over the coals for his poor response to a violent incident with a passenger. At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, a man was forcibly removed from a United flight when nobody volunteered to give up their seats. A video showing the man being dragged down the aisle went viral. Munoz issued a response, only apologizing for "having to re-accommodate customers" and not for what happened to the passenger. Social media blew up, chastising United for their handling of the situation. The hashtag "#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos" trended on Twitter, with responses like "If there is not enough seating, prepare for a beating!" Munoz later apologized further, saying, "I promise you we will do better."
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United isn't the only airline that has had PR disasters. Just this month, a family of four from New Jersey was kicked off of a JetBlue flight over a birthday cake. Cameron Burke was told he had to move his wife's birthday cake, which was initially stored in an overhead bin. Despite the family's compliance with flight attendants' directions, police at JFK airport were brought on board as seen in this video. Eventually, all passengers had to get off the aircraft and the Burke family was no longer allowed to fly. JetBlue issued a statement saying, "(The customer) refused multiple requests from the crew to remove the items...became agitated, cursed and yelled at the crew, and made false accusations about a crew member's fitness to fly." The family's version of the story, as well as the video taken by Cameron, tells a different story. "My two children are screaming, crying. They're confused, not knowing what's going on," said Minta Burke. "They were traumatized."
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One Krispy Kreme doughnut promotion shared an unfortunate acronym with the infamous Ku Klux Klan, or the KKK. A Krispy Kreme in Hull, England found themselves in hot water after they introduced a promotion called "KKK Wednesday" and shared it on social media in 2015. The schedule of promotional events was soon deleted. Krispy Kreme's PR manager Lafeea Watson released a statement to the Huffington Post, saying, "We are aware of the Hull store's unfortunate naming choice for its Club program, and we are truly sorry for any inconvenience or offense this misstep may have caused our fans."
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In 1998, Bridgestone began getting reports of their Firestone tires causing major accidents. The company refused to admit there was a problem with their brand until two years later, when a full-scale investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that nearly 200 deaths and 700 injuries had been caused by the defective Firestone tires. Bridgestone announced the second-largest recall in American history—6.5 million tires. Despite this PR disaster, Bridgestone made a rebound years later and found stability, which at one time many analysts thought would be impossible. Chief financial officer Michael K. Gorey said, "The recovery has been remarkable."
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Did your parents ever warn you about eating raw cookie dough? Well, looks like they were right. In 2009, the FDA investigated an e.coli outbreak caused from Nestle Toll House packaged cookie dough. In a span of four months, over 66 people fell ill with symptoms caused by the bacteria, with victims ranging from 2 years old to 60 years old. "This particular strain of e.coli can make you very sick," said Dr. Steven Lamm of NYU Medical Center. "Your kidneys can shut down and you can actually die." Nestle recalled all refrigerated cookie dough products, and the FDA advised consumers to throw out any Toll House products. Although the eggs in Toll House dough are pasteurized (mostly eliminating the risk of salmonella poisoning), the other raw ingredients could pose risks if consumed. Note to self: cookie dough may be tasty, but it's not always safe.
Abercrombie & Fitch
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After a 2006 Salon article profiled him, 72-year-old former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, was criticized for his harsh comments. He was quoted saying, "That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that." In Jeffries' opinion, A&F didn't need the support of "unattractive" people. He said, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely." Many thought Jeffries went too far, and in 2014, he was stripped of his role as chairman.
Photo: AP Images
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We all heard about the Fyre Festival—what was supposed to be a luxurious music weekend in the Bahamas turned into a Survivor-like panic. The festival was promoted on Instagram as an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experience by big names like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. "Not one thing that was promised on the website was delivered," said Shivi Kumar, 33, who had paid $3,500 for a deluxe "lodge" package. Instead, festival goers were directed to find a tent. "The tents didn't have any locks, the beds were damp, the blankets were soaked," said Kumar. Many people were left stranded without money or transportation. The organizers went into damage-control mode, releasing a statement saying, "Fyre Festival set out to provide a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience. Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time and we are unable to fulfill on that vision safely and enjoyably for our guests... We ask for everyone's patience and cooperation during this difficult time, as we work as quickly and safely as we can to remedy this unforeseeable situation."
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Kentucky Fried Chicken took a hard hit when they decided to team up with talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 2009. They launched their new Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which Oprah promoted on her show and offered fans a coupon for free chicken. Restaurants became swamped with customers demanding free chicken, and most locations weren't prepared to meet the high demand. Rumors of riots began to circulate. KFC spokeswoman Laurie Schalow spoke out, saying, "Some customers were upset because they couldn't get their chicken, but there was no riot... A lot of restaurants experienced very, very heavy traffic with people trying to redeem the coupons. We didn't prepare for this extreme." In response, KFC mailed out rain checks to the hangry customers who never received their free chicken.
Photo: Ben Gabbe / Stringer
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Urban Outfitters has faced backlash in the past (fake-bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt, the "Eat Less" t-shirt), but never as bad as David Chang's board game, "Ghettopoly." In 2003, the store decided to sell Chang's racist version of Monopoly, where "playas" can win by "buying stolen properties, pimpin hoes, building crack houses and getting car jacked!" Black leaders called for a boycott of Urban Outfitters until the company stopped selling the board game. Urban Outfitters eventually pulled Ghettopoly from shelves, but never publicly commented on the issue.
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As convenient as Uber may be, the company is learning the hard way that customers care about more than just cheap travel. This year, CEO Travis Kalanick has been in hot water on for numerous reasons, from his ties to President Trump to unsavory viral dashcam footage. In early February, Kalanick resigned from Trump's economic adviser panel after facing backlash from Uber customers and employees. People nation-wide began using the hashtag #DeleteUber in protest of Kalanick's collaboration with the Trump administration. And most recently in March, a dashcam video of Kalanick yelling at an Uber driver went viral. The two men can be seen arguing over Uber fares when Kalanick explodes, saying, "You know what? Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!" Kalanick later apologized to all his employees, admitting he needs to "grow up."
Sunny Co Clothing
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Even if you aren't familiar with what happened, you've probably seen this image of a brunette in a red bathing suit cross your newsfeeds. The California-based company Sunny Co Clothing told Instagram users that anyone who reposted the photo within 24 hours would get a "free" Pamela Sunny swimsuit, which normally sells for $64.99, and they'd only have to pay shipping and handling. The owners must've been sweating when the promotion backfired and over one million people reposted the photo. Multiple people claimed the discount code they received didn't even work, and in response, Sunny Co deleted their Instagram account (and Twitter had a field day). They have yet to comment on the situation.