How to Avoid Tone Deaf Marketing

May 21, 2017

Recent events in advertising have served as jolting reminders of the negative consequences of tone deaf marketing. Most notably Pepsi’s “Jump In” ad featuring Kendall Jenner, immediately received wide-spread backlash and elicited outrage throughout social media. Accused of appropriating and trivializing recent social activist protests such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi quickly took down the ad and released an official apology. Still, the damage to the Pepsi brand was notable.

Most business owners never want to commit such major missteps and they accomplish this by refraining from releasing insensitive marketing messages and campaigns. Our Boca Raton full-service advertising agency has compiled some tips on how companies can avoid tone deaf marketing.


Your customers should be at the forefront when developing marketing messages and campaigns. Be familiar with their likes, dislikes, and the motivations behind their interactions with your brand. Monitor social media to better understand the issues your customers and/or target audience are invested in and listen to their opinions especially on your brand and its marketing messages. Base your campaigns on this information and monitor customer responses after your campaign is rolled out. Make improvements and admit mistakes if necessary in order to restore faith in your brand – customers want to know that the company cares.


As a Boca Raton full-service advertising agency, we know that good marketing is a product of a talented in-house team. That team is also a key part of avoiding tone deaf marketing. Invest in building an in-house team of experienced professionals with integrity or working with a marketing team that possesses these qualities. Seek out people with diverse and independent voices that are not afraid to denounce proposed marketing messages and ideas when they are not appropriate for the brand. Weak editorial oversight may also result in tone deaf marketing mishaps that could have been prevented before a campaign release. Team diversity may also help avoid cultural misappropriation or insensitivity to race and gender issues in your company’s marketing.


It is common for companies to take inspiration from current events when developing marketing messages and campaigns. If your business takes that route, it is important to keep track of current events, particularly those related to your brand. Avoid using the company’s marketing to come off as a thought leader on subjects not directly related to your brand, in other words risk entering tone deaf marketing territory altogether. So, when developing these type of campaigns, keep your brand voice in mind and consult with influencers well versed on the topics that will be touched upon. You could consider testing your potential campaigns with influencer think tanks and incorporate their reactions and insights in your further decision making and campaign development.

Marketing mistakes happen even to big-name brands. However, in this age of social media, tone deaf marketing seems to be the most unforgivable to consumers. Fortunately, tone deaf marketing mishaps can be avoided if your company invests the proper time and resources. One worthwhile investment is to enlist the expertise of a Boca Raton full-service advertising agency. To learn more about how we can create an exceptional and memorable campaign for your company, call Keenability today!

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