Squirmy Marketing Fails By Kenyan Brands (2019)

By August 20, 2019 No Comments

Every so often, brands make epic marketing fails or mistakes that give the rest of us a good laugh and leave us rather confused. Luckily, or to some devastatingly, the internet never forgets. And screenshots are the order of the day. There are always lessons to learn because no brand is immune to such mistakes.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Safaricom Twitter Outburst

Shortly after Bob Collymore’s passing (May he rest in peace), a series of tweets were sent from Safaricom’s PLC twitter account. The tweets touched on his succession, the Kenyan government’s shortcomings and Dennis Itumbi. The telco-giant issued an apology saying the tweets were due to a systems glitch that was resolved. The tweeter thread circulated faster than Usain Bolt on his best day, I mean, how gutsy!

Solution: Your first instinct would probably be to delete the social media posts. But unfortunately for you, in comes the ‘mother that never forgets’ – screenshots.. So this where classic PR management tactics come in. Issue an official apology and do a thorough evaluation of the people responsible for handling your social media accounts.

safaricom marketing fail
safaricom rant

KFC and Samsung Mobile Kenya Mix-Up

A Social Media Manager’s worst nightmare is mixing up two accounts in real-time. Believe it or not, this mistake / marketing fail happens more than you’d think. This is exactly what happened when the Samsung Mobile Kenya account was used in place of KFC’s handle. Ciku Muriuki tweeted expressing her displeasure in the absence of KFC sticky wings on the Jumia Food App. And instead of using the KFC handle, the social media manager mistakenly used the Samsung Mobile Kenya account to respond. Needless to say, this did not go down well.  How would you get yourself out of this sticky situation?

kfc -samsung account mix up

Solution: Making light of the situation is one way to go about it. You could turn the tables to your favour by finding a reasonable angle that redeems your brand. As a social media manager or community manager, always counter check EVERYTHING before hitting send. Don’t be in such a hurry and assume you are a pro, we are human, and we are bound to mess up once in a while.

Soko’s Photoshop Fail

Soko Maize Meal recently did an advertisement but I have so many questions. Why is a male model getting ugali flour out of the cheese and fresh produce section? Why is the image poorly Photoshopped? (If you zoom in, you can see that the maize flour doesn’t fully obstruct the original item held by the model- KOT detective ninjas pointed this out BTW). Who approved this ad? So many questions, so little time and not enough answers.

soko ugali marketing fail

Solution: If you are going to use stock images, which is understandable and a cheaper option as opposed to going the whole 9yards with an organic campaign, do it right! People are more critical now than ever. Since it would be hard to pull down such an ad campaign after it has garnered traction, the best thing to do would be to simply learn from this mistake. Consider going the organic route for your next ad, if not, get a bad-ass graphic designer on your team!

Koroga Fest Ad

So, the 26th Edition of Koroga Festival happened on the 6th and 7th of July. However, their ads were up and running as of as of the 2nd August. What’s the big deal? Well, for starters this is very misleading. Second, seems like someone was sleeping on their job and this isn’t a good look for the brand. It’s not necessarily a marketing fail of astronomical proportions but even the simplest mistakes have their unforeseeable consequences.

swvl example

Solution: This one is pretty simple. You can’t ‘hit rewind’ an online ad after it starts running, you can only pause or stop it altogether. Your media buyer should know how long to run an ad depending on the company’s budget, purpose and, other marketing variables. Plus, brands should avoid ad fatigue at all costs.

Wanyama Vs Menengai Oil Lawsuit

Menengai Oil Refineries Limited decided to wish the entire Kenyan team the best at AFCON 2019 and used an image of Victor Wanyama on their social media post (read that again). Wanyama went ahead to the Nairobi Milimani high court to sue the company for using his image without his permission. Honestly, he’s spent years building and perfecting his reputation and brand image. What did they expect?

menengai marketing fail

Solution: Every brand MUST be knowledgeable of copyright infringements. There’s no way to go about this. Brands should share 3rd party content (photographs, music, literary works, paintings, films, choreography, sculpture and drawings) rather than advertise it as their own. Always credit the original artist and if you are not sure, avoid it altogether because this could be an expensive mistake to make.


As a brand, you must exercise caution on all fronts and place measures that ensure your image and reputation remains intact and clean. Some marketing fails might get you some much needed exposure, but there are better ways to attract attention that are less damaging to your reputation. If you do happen to make it on such a list, don’t despair, there is always a way to redeem yourself.

Have any comments or observations on social media marketing flops in Kenya? Join the conversation by commenting below.

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