In the marketing world, sometimes there’s a fine line between pushing boundaries to create awareness; and being insensitive and the tone deaf campaigns from recent past are good examples of it.

In this article, we have listed some marketing strategies that were not just distasteful, but also probably qualify as cruel. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Poonam Pandey faking her own death for a cancer awareness campaign.

The actor-model chose the worst method to talk about a serious cause when she faked her own death last week. While the industry mourned her supposed demise, she later announced that she was alive and had not died of cervical cancer. She added that the entire stunt was done to ‘promote’ cervical cancer awareness. The internet called her out and said that neither cancer nor death are topics to joke about.

2. Promoting Pihu, a thriller, through creepy prank calls. 

In 2018, the makers of the movie decided to do a strange telemarketing campaign. During this campaign, several people received a call from a crying child, asking for help. Before they could say anything, the call got disconnected. When they dialed back on the number, they received a link to the film’s trailer.

3. Zomato dehumanising Kachra, a Dalit character from Lagaan.

Focused on promoting cleanliness and reducing food wastage, the campaign linked kachra (waste) and the Dalit character from Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan, to symbolically represent him as ‘garbage’. Needless to mention, the campaign was heavily criticized and social media called the idea casteist and insensitive. 

4. Reserving a seat for ‘God’ during the promotion of Om Raut’s Adipurush.

The makers of the movie announced that a seat, decked with flowers, will be reserved in every theatre for Lord Hanuman. Several people offered prayers, incense sticks and coconuts to ‘the seat’ before watching the movie. Interestingly, a video of a monkey entering the theatre to ‘watch’ the film also went viral. 

5. Layer’r Shot advertising campaigns glorifying rape and sexism. 

Perfume brand Layer’r released a series of advertisements that celebrate sexism as humor. In one of them, four boys are seen in supermarket and one of them says, “Hum chaar hain aur yeh ek, shot kaun lega?.

6. Sanjay Dutt ranting about being a real ‘mard’ for Haywards 5000.

In an old advertisement, the actor said that there is a new ‘dushman’ in our lives and we have to unite to fight against it. He literally said that men today are spending more time in beauty parlors than in gyms where they belong and they are men but only by ‘name’. Seriously, let men and women do what they want!

7. Imperial Blue campaign concealing sexism by stating ‘men will be men’.

The brand and its several advertisement campaigns revolve around the tagline ‘men will be men’ – which is creepy, offensive and awful. Even though we are living and breathing in the twenty-first century, women are still being told, “Ladke toh aisa karte hi hain, tum dhyaan rakha karo.”

8. Glow & Lovely’s idea of dusky women achieving great heights after becoming fair. 

The brand has released innumerable advertisements that showcase a sad dark-skinned woman finding success after using the brand’s skin-lightening cream and becoming fair. It’s not just impractical, but also very offensive and promotes negative stereotypes around dark skin.

There are hundreds of ways to promote a cause and yet, these campaigns chose the worst one.