Pepsi, Papa Johns and other brands that had major fails in 2017

These companies probably wish they could have a do-over for 2017.

Some brands commissioned advertisements that sparked fury and ire - while others faced PR nightmares which shook their company's foundations.

Here are some of the year's biggest brand fails, offering a guide for other companies on what not to do.


Pepsi hard arguably one of the worst ads of the year, which faced international backlash for its insensitive nature.

The soda company launched a high-priced ad in April featuring model Kendall Jenner, who decides to hit up a protest - seemingly against police violence - after finishing a photoshoot. She's joined by a diverse group of well-dressed demonstrators, who are facing off against cops in riot gear.

Then the high-paid model cracks open a can of Pepsi, hands it to a cop and cures a swath of society's ills with the fizzy drink.

The ad went flat nearly as soon as it premiered. Pepsi was accused of being tone deaf to movements against police violence, trivializing a major social issue.

The soda giant canned the ad after a few days, but grappled with backlash for weeks. Jenner, who took a brunt of the criticism, laid low for several weeks and reportedly threatened to walk out of interviews at Coachella if the ad was brought up.

RELATED: 10 brands that took a beating in 2017 and 10 that took off

10 brands that took a beating in 2017 and 10 that took off
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10 brands that took a beating in 2017 and 10 that took off

Brands That Took a Beating

According to Bloomberg, the retail industry closed about 6,800 chain locations this year, despite historically low unemployment and a growing U.S. economy. Brick-and-mortar storefronts weren't the only losers in 2017, though, as some brands figured out how to take bad looks to a whole new level.

United Airlines

On April 10, a viral video of aviation officers violently dragging passenger David Dao off an overbooked plane changed the consumer perception of United Airlines for millions of fliers worldwide, and certainly not for the better.

Though United's financials remained strong through the third quarter, with a net income of $637 million, their mindshare took a massive blow. About a week after the video surfaced, the hashtag #BoycottUnited had more than 3.5 million impressions on Twitter, and their YouGov consumer perception score tanked, dropping from a measly 1.8 out of 100 to an insanely unfavorable -64, as reported by Business Insider.

The reason for United's continued financial success? A route monopoly that resulted from their 2010 merger with Continental Airlines.

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San Francisco, California, USA - May 20, 2015: United Airlines planes in San Francisco International Airport.It is the world's largest airline when measured by number of destinations served.


How did Uber, an all-time darling startup valued at around $70 billion, fail in 2017? Let us count the ways. By the time the first three months of 2017 ended, Uber had lost $708 million, prompting the departure of its head of finance, accompanied by the exit of scandal-ridden CEO Travis Kalanick in March. This followed dashcam footage of Kalanick aggressively berating an Uber driver, not to mention the resignation of the company's vice president over very public sexual harassment complaints. By late September, the company lost its London license due to its alleged lack of corporate responsibility, and by the time December rolled around Uber's losses had exploded to $1.5 billion in the third quarter.

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


It was a record-setting year for Equifax: The company gifted the American public with the biggest corporate data breach of all time. From mid-May through July of 2017, 143 million Americans were affected when hackers accessed personal info held by Equifax, one of the nation's three major credit reporting bureaus. That figure includes 209,000 stolen credit card numbers. In response to the breach, Equifax waited six weeks to disclose any info to the public, attempted to rescind consumers' rights to sue and directed people toward phishing sites where they could get even more of their data stolen. To top it off, Equifax execs suspiciously unloaded nearly $2 million in stock shares right before letting the public know about the breach.

Learn: How to Freeze Your Credit After a Data Hack

(REUTERS/Tami Chappell)


You know it's bad news when a renowned branding specialist says you had, "as bad a mess-up as you could imagine." That's exactly what Nigel Currie told the Associated Press early this year after accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was responsible for the infamous envelope mix-up during the live broadcast of the Academy Awards.

All eyes were on PwC, tabulator of Oscar winners for 83 years running, when "La La Land" was erroneously announced as the Best Picture winner over "Moonlight," and those eyes weren't kind. In a statement, the company said bluntly, "We failed the Academy." Though the hugely viral flub did irreparable damage to PwC's public reputation, there's room for redemption moving forward: In March, the Academy opted to retain its partnership with the firm despite the major error. One added benefit: Both movies likely profited from the blunder.

(REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)


In 2014, Jawbone was valued at $3.2 billion. By 2017, it had raised more than $900 million in funding. Also in 2017, Reuters called the company's demise a case of "death by overfunding."

Unfortunately for the one-time Fitbit competitor, this Silicon Valley wearables company now takes its place as the second-largest failure among venture-backed companies on record. Speaking to Reuters, startup accelerator CEO Sramana Mitra said that Silicon Valley investors "are basically force-feeding capital into these companies," and that this rather reckless strategy creates an "artificially bloated valuation that doesn't compute with the revenue."

In Jawbone's case at least, he was right on the money. The company tried to sell itself in 2016, but couldn't manage to find a buyer.

(Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Snap, Inc.

Eager investors couldn't wait for Snapchat's parent company to go public in March, but their appetites were quickly tempered. By November, the company had lost 27 percent of its value and Snap, Inc., stock had fallen 58 percent from its post-IPO peak.

In true Snapchat fashion, here's the short of it: Snapchat just isn't growing enough, already reporting half the user growth of previous quarters in late 2017. To add insult to injury, Snapchat-branded Spectacles — "smart" sunglasses that send Snaps from the wearer's perspective — were a flop that drained the company of $40 million in unsold product.

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Juicero sure did make a lot of noise, but in the end, the San Francisco startup's high-end juicer only lasted for 16 months on the market. In retrospect, a $400 juicer that uses pre-sold packets which, as it turns out, could be juiced just as well by hand probably wasn't the greatest idea to ever come out of Silicon Valley. By the time Juicero officially shut down in September, offering refunds on more than 1 million juice packets, it had already become the poster child for overzealous Silicon Valley fundraising and, as The Guardian put it, products that offer "solutions to non-problems."

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Humane Society of the United States)

Sears Holdings

Sears infamously became the unofficial mascot of 2017's retail apocalypse, but its decline was a long time coming. According to The New York Times, the company lost over $26 billion in market value and half of its workforce over the past decade.

Those losses came to a dramatic head this year. In December the stock was trading at 4.08, a 97 percent decline from Sears Holdings' all-time high in 2007. Sears is currently keeping afloat by selling its assets, as over 350 of its Sears and Kmart stores shuttered throughout the year, with at least 60 more set to close in January of 2018.

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump

As it turns out, having your father elected president of the United States isn't automatically good for your brand. Just ask Ivanka Trump.

For Ivanka's fashion line, the brand failures were numerous --and often propelled by her father's administration. Late 2016 protests from progressive activists sparked the anti-Trump #GrabYourWallet social media movement, and in February, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway raised serious ethical concerns when she openly endorsed Ivanka's products during a televised interview from the White House briefing room. In November, ethics concerns arose once again when Trump failed to examine human rights abuses in China (where most of her merchandise is made) when speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India. Activists aren't the only Americans who have responded. The laundry list of retailers that dropped Trump's products in 2017 includes Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus,, Belk, Jet, ShopStyle and Gilt.

On the Bright Side: A Look at Ivanka Trump's Net Worth and Legacy as She Turns 36

(Photo credit should read EUGENE HOSHIKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Electronic Arts

EA's "Star Wars Battlefront II" set the video game industry on fire, but not quite in the ways the publisher had hoped for.

Early on, the game's extensive reliance on microstransactions drew more fire than a stationary Stormtrooper. The online multiplayer game was planned to revolve around a system of loot crates, randomized digital boxes of in-game gear that are essential for player progress — and that cost real-world money to unlock. In fact, early-access gamers calculated that it would cost $2,100 to unlock all of the game's content. The move prompted worldwide ire, inspiring lawmakers in the U.S., Belgium and the UK to chime in over what many perceived as legally dubious gambling. Hawaii Senator Chris Lee called the game, "a 'Star Wars'-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money."

When an EA spokesperson commented on Reddit and attempted to explain the reasons for paid loot crates, it became the most downvoted in Reddit history. For the moment, EA has totally scrapped its original microtransaction plan for "Battlefront" while it works on an alternative, but the damage has already been done; by late November, the debacle had wiped out $3 billion in stock value for the company.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Brands That Took Off

Fortunately, 2017 wasn't all doom and gloom. Some of the most well-known brands on the planet reached milestones that were exceptional even for them, while new brands shone and old giants rebounded from the failures of prior years.

(REUTERS/Toru Hanai)


It may not be an underdog, but you can't mention brand successes in 2017 without mentioning Amazon. No one's surprised that Amazon did well this year, but to say that the mega-retailer had a banner year would be an understatement. The company is close to touching everything you buy.

A few brief highlights: The Amazon Echo reached 15 million units sold to capture 75 percent of its market; founder Jeff Bezo's net worth broke $100 billion; Amazon became the second-largest retailer of apparel in the country and the company acquired Whole Foods to the tune of $13.7 billion. That kind of diversity is precisely what it takes to rank number two (right behind Apple) on Fortune's list of the World's Most Admired Companies, and to be named "The World's Most Innovative Company" by Fast Company.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)


Tax software might not be the most exciting brand out there, but you've got to give props to Intuit for the resounding rebound year it had.

Intuit never went away, but in late 2016, the company launched new initiatives to more actively engage with small businesses and app developers to form a more symbiotic ecosystem: a hands-on tax tool that would evolve with both taxpayers and accounts. The plan worked, resulting in record profits for the 34-year-old company and revenue growth of more than 30 percent since 2012. According to Fortune, these bold moves mean that Intuit's stock has returned 152 percent over the past five years.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Jersey Mike’s

Sometimes, you've got to hand it to the little guy. Unlike other brands on this list — some for better and some for worse — Jersey Mike's sandwich chain didn't set the media ablaze with viral news articles and memes. It just quietly had one heck of a successful year. The franchise's success in 2017 is owed to a fruitful expansion. At the end of 2013, there were 700 Jersey Mike's stores; by the time 2017 kicked off, there were 1,500 open or in development. In late 2016, the fast-casual New Jersey breakout had officially become the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the country.

Related: The Biggest Changes to the Fast Food Industry in 2017

(Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)


In September, Forbes predicted that Postmates would eventually be among the next crop of billion-dollar startups. With $278 million of equity raised and $300 million of profit in 2017, that's not exactly an outlandish prediction. With just 550 employees, Postmates puts money in the pockets of over 100,000 independent contractors who deliver food and goods through its app. They operate in 250 cities, and by the time 2017 had wrapped, the once-scrappy startup had launched new services in six states, including alcohol delivery.

The next steps? Possibly going public in 2018, and then creating a fleet of delivery robots. Seriously.

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)


Thanks in part to a successful product launch of the iPhone X, Apple managed to keep $250 billion worth of cash on hand in 2017. It plans to dole out about $13 billion of that to shareholders, making it the highest dividend-paying stock on the planet. And for the third-year running, the Cupertino, Calif. giant was ranked No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list of the Most Profitable Companies in the U.S.

When that's your "middling" year — a year where profits sank 14 percent compared to 2016 — you know you're doing something right. Or maybe a couple million things right.

(Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


Here's one you might not have seen coming: Samsung was the third-most-profitable company in the world in 2017, drumming up a total of $188.9 billion in revenue.

Granted, Samsung's earnings fell about 35 percent to $21.4 billion in 2017 due to weakened smartphone sales, but its overall profitability was a surefire sign of the South Korean giant's fortitude. By January of 2017, the tech company had managed to raise its profits by 50 percent after the late 2016 debacle involving exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones. Despite the horrible publicity and billions of dollars spent on scrapping the Note 7 entirely, Samsung quickly absorbed the losses and kept marching straight ahead.

(REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Natural Health Trends

Racking up $273 million of revenue in a single year, Natural Health Trends topped Fortune's list of the 100 Fastest-Growing Companies for the second time in a row in 2017.

But the good news doesn't end there. Led by CEO Chris Sharng, NHT saw a 112 percent three-year growth in earnings per share, a 73 percent growth in revenue over three years, and a 64-percent total three-year return. Not too shabby for a multi-level marketing company based out of the California suburb of Rolling Hills Estates.

The Kardashians

Like them or not, the Kardashians are a thriving family business empire, and they did pretty darned well in 2017. After 10 years, 13 seasons and 11 spinoffs of the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" reality TV show, E! network renewed the family's contract through 2020 this year, reportedly for a $100 million price. That news came in October; before the deal, the women of the Kardashian-Jenner clan sported a combined net worth of $122.5 million in 2017, according to Forbes.

Within the family, Kylie Jenner is the champion among champions. Over just 18 months, her Kylie Cosmetics brand ballooned into a $420 million company, earning her place as the youngest entry on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2017.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)


You might not have heard of Salesforce yet, but you will soon. For the first time in 2017, Fortune put together a new list dubbed the Future 50, a ranking of companies best poised for breakout growth. Guess who topped it?

That's right — it's the San Francisco-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that just so happens to be the most successful company of its type in the world. Salesforce's innovative cloud-based sales, service and marketing platform eliminates the need to hire IT experts, and lends the young company a staggering value of $104.35 billion.

(Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


Nintendo has been marching to its own quirky drumbeat since it first started making playing cards in 1889, and it has created some of the most beloved and best-selling video game franchises of all time. Beset by confusing marketing failures, the Wii U era was definitely a downbeat one. While the console's Wii predecessor sold 101.63 million hardware units worldwide, the Wii U only managed to scrape by with 13.56 million. In September 2016, the games maker reported a $57 million operating loss, hedging its bets on its then-upcoming hybrid Switch console to turn things around.

That bet paid off in spades. One of the biggest marketing successes of the year — complete with a Super Bowl LI commercial that has racked up 14 million YouTube views — the Nintendo Switch could hardly stay on the shelves for months after its early March launch. By September, the Switch had already sold 7.63 million hardware units globally accompanied by 27.48 million software units, with Nintendo reporting revenue of $1.9 billion for the second quarter.

In late November, economics journal Toyo Keizai revealed that Nintendo was the most cash-rich company in Japan, with about $8.4 billion in its war chest. The folks at the house of Mario are positively jumping for joy.

REUTERS/ Mike Blake



Papa Johns

Better outreach. Better PR. Papa John's.

Perhaps that's the internal slogan the pizza chain could embrace after founder and ex-CEO John Schnatter made waves for blaming protesting NFL players for his slumping sales.

Schnatter told shareholders during a November conference call that NFL leadership was doing a poor job at blocking players from kneeling during the national anthem. Papa John's is a major sponsor.

Players began kneeling during the anthem last year, when then-San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest acts of police violence. But the protests picked up in September as a rebuke to President Trump, who trashed the practice during a rally - saying it was unpatriotic and leading to poor viewership numbers.

"The NFL has hurt us," Schnatter said on the call. "We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this."

The statement made the company's shares plummet, prompting the ouster of the company's most recognizable face. Papa John's later apologized for the remark, saying the company supported the right to protest.



McDonald's came under fire in the United Kingdom for a lengthy, unsettling commercial about a young man trying to bridge a connection with his deceased father.

The 90-second spot featured a British boy rifling through his father's belongings. Then his mother laments on how handsome, athletic, big-handed and well-kept the father was as the awkward teen realizes his traits don't line up - from his small hands, inability to kick a soccer ball and dirty sneakers.


But at least there's always their shared love of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich, along with dribbling tartar sauce down their chins.

Advocacy groups for bereaved children in the U.K. slammed the ad, which they alleged capitalized on a boy's misfortune.

"This was by no means an intention of ours,'' a spokesman for McDonald's U.K. told the BBC after the ad ran in May. "We wanted to highlight the role McDonald's has played in our customers' everyday lives - both in good and difficult times."



All the soap in the world couldn't clean up this mess.

Dove ran a GIF on its Facebook page in October that almost immediately sparked outrage.

The ad began with a black woman removing her brown shirt to reveal a white woman - after using Dove's body lotion - who then removes her shirt to reveal a Middle Eastern woman.

But that first segment sparked fury, implying black woman should cleanse themselves and become white.

It came months after competitor Nivea ran a racially suggestive ad in April that proclaimed: "White Is Pure."

Dove pulled the ad, which was roasted on social media with a wave of memes, apologized and admitted it "missed the mark."

"Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity," a spokesperson reportedly said.



Rideshare behemoth Uber spent the better part of 2017 swerving and crashing along a road full of PR nightmares.

The company was marred from the top down, seeing its CEO depart, tough relations with local governments and rampant sexual harassment accusations throughout the firm.

Travis Kalanick left the company he built up in June, saying he needed to grieve his mother - who'd recently died in a boating accident. Dara Khosrowshahi later replaced Kalanick at the company.

A video released in February showed Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver about how recent policies hurt rank-and-file workers.

"Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own s--t," Kalanick shouted at the driver before leaving his car. "They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!"

The company was also hit with allegations of sexism and harassment, which prompted the firm to tap former Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the Silicon Valley giant's workplace culture. It came after Amit Singhal was fired in February, after just five weeks on the job, for not revealing sexual harassment allegations while at Google.

An Uber-sanctioned diversity report also revealed its employees on the tech side were overwhelmingly white men. The company committed to ensuring more worker diversity in the coming years.

But the hits didn't stop there. The Department of Justice opened an investigation in May into Uber's "Greyball" software, which allegedly helped drivers avoid local regulators trying to clamp down on the rideshare service. It was also revealed this year the Uber reportedly used another service dubbed "Hell" that allowed it to track drivers from competitors such as Lyft. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the FBI is looking into Uber's "Hell" program.

Uber also hit some roadblocks in London, where the city's transportation department decided not to renew the company's license in September. London officials were concerned about Uber's background check process as well as reporting criminal histories. Because Uber is currently appealing the decision, its drivers can still operate in the city.

Can't get much worse, right? Uber officials revealed in late November that it paid hackers $100,00 to stay mum after they breached personal data for 57 million users. Executives didn't inform its customers nor regulators when the hack took place in October 2016, causing more backlash for the embattled company.

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