Ask a group of marketers what they think the best marketing strategy should be for any given business, and you might end up with very different answers. But despite disagreement over what’s right, there are significant consensus as to what’s wrong. We’ve listed 9 of the biggest marketing blunders made by businesses big and small. From the dumb and the bizarre, to the downright offensive, here are examples of marketing mistakes you probably don’t want to make.

1. Malaysia Airlines: My Ultimate Bucket List

Malaysia Airlines had a rough year in 2014. But that didn’t stop the airline company from asking people to send in their bucket lists for a chance to win attractive prizes. Sounds like a great idea, huh? Except that “bucket list” also refers to the wishes one wants to fulfill, before his or her death. Not a good term to use, considering that 537 people lost their lives flying with the airline that year.

Lesson: Be sure to know the precise meaning of words before using them.

2. NERC: Boaty McBoatface

When you let the internet do things for you, the results are bound to be unpredictable. Most of us already know this, but the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of the UK decided to take a chance anyway and asked the public to suggest names for a new RSS vessel via an online poll. Someone suggested RSS Boaty McBoatface, and overnight the name was in the lead to become winner of the poll.

The committee-in-charge ultimately decided to overrule the poll results and assigned to the vessel the more conservative name of RRS Sir David Attenborough. But happily, for all supporters of internet pranks and wacky memes, Boaty McBoatfacewas later assigned to a remote-operated submarine that’s set to accompany the RRS in its polar adventures. The submarine is a yellow, cheery looking thing – quite befitting of its name, other than the fact that it’s not a boat and doesn’t have a face.

Lesson: Be prepared to face unexpected outcomes when you give the internet the power of decision. But then again, marketing blunders and free publicity aren’t mutually-exclusive things.

3. Kurl-On Mattress: Bounce Back

Malala Yousafzai is a household name. After being shot by a Taliban gunman at the age of 14, she not only made a physical recovery, but also fought back against extremism by becoming one of the most prominent advocates for girls’ education rights.

It seems that Malala’s acclaim was what Kurl-On Mattress wanted to leverage on. By depicting an injured Malala “bouncing back” from the attack, the emphasis here appears to be on the supreme springiness of the mattress. But some wonder if the company has crossed ethical boundaries in making one’s suffering fodder for its own monetary aims.

The fact that this ad was made by Ogilvy & Mather just makes it even more ludicrous. How did it pass through all the checks and approvals? The ads were later pulled an a formal apology issued.

Lesson: Err on the side of sensitivity. Afterall, marketing deals with living humans, not faceless statistics.

4. Dr Pepper Ten: It’s Not For Women

Soft drinks companies have always faced the challenge of positioning their sugarless products to attract not only weight-conscious females, but also manly ‘bros’. To mitigate the gender contamination of marketing messages, companies often segregate their product lines, tailoring their marketing strategies to the emotional needs of the two genders, while leaving the contents of the product itself unaltered. One example is Coca-Cola, whose Coke Zero is positioned as a drink for men.

Dr Pepper uses the same marketing strategy in promoting Dr Pepper Ten. But its goal of playing up the machismo cliché came at the cost of denigrating the other half of the population. The marketing message isn’t outrightly offensive – it’s just plain bizarre. The drink is not for women? Fine. When was Dr Pepper a particularly manly drink to begin with anyway?

Lesson: Marketing that aims at one group of audience at the cost of vilifying another is counterproductive. There’s no need to stoop this low.

5. Pocari Sweat

Branding messages that don’t translate well already make for a marketing boo-boo. What if the brand name itself doesn’t translate well? This was the situation Pocari Sweat found itself in. English words in Japan often follow different linguistic conventions, but outside of Japan, a beverage that contains the word ‘sweat’ certainly puts off the majority of English-speaking people.

On the other hand, it’s too quick to say that this translation slip-up has been an entirely bad thing for Pocari Sweat. While some will be staying clear of this drink, others might try it just for its unusual name. Once you get past the name, the drink itself is supposed to taste pretty inoffensive. As for the overall effectiveness of its branding, just consider this: how many Japanese drinks can you recall with as much clarity as you do with Pocari Sweat?

Lesson: Know your foreign markets well. Triple-screen your marketing messages so you know they’re legally, culturally, and linguistically acceptable in those markets.

6. DiGiorno: #WhyIStayed

Social media hashtags are a great way to find your community, built rapport, connect people, or not. Jumping onto the hashtag bandwagon without understanding the context can lead to embarrassing boo-boos, and DiGiorno found out about this the hard way: When #WhyIStayed trended on Twitter in 2014, the frozen pizza maker mistook its purpose and tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza”. But the hashtag wasn’t about food, or anything that’s remotely funny. It was about the experience of domestic violence victims.

To DiGiorno’s credit, the offending tweet was taken down within minutes, and the social media team made efforts to mitigate the slip-up by responding to criticisms sincerely. But damage has been done. While this was a rare and dumb mistake on DiGiorno’s part, we all know by now that even the smallest mistake can be amplified many times over on the internet – all thanks to social media.

Lesson: A tiny bit of research, and many potential PR crisis could easily be averted.

7. Apple: U2 album giveaway

Social media hashtags are a great way to find your community, built rapport, connect people, or not. Jumping onto the hashtag bandwagon without understanding the context can lead to embarrassing boo-boos, and DiGiorno found out about this the hard way: When #WhyIStayed trended on Twitter in 2014, the frozen pizza maker mistook its purpose and tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza”. But the hashtag wasn’t about food, or anything that’s remotely funny. It was about the experience of domestic violence victims.

To DiGiorno’s credit, the offending tweet was taken down within minutes, and the social media team made efforts to mitigate the slip-up by responding to criticisms sincerely. But damage has been done. While this was a rare and dumb mistake on DiGiorno’s part, we all know by now that even the smallest mistake can be amplified many times over on the internet – all thanks to social media.

Lesson: A tiny bit of research, and many potential PR crisis could easily be averted.

8. Nike: Bullet in the chamber

Double-amputee olympian Oscar Pistorius made a series of advertisements for Nike back in 2013 that was initially well received by the public. But all turned awry when Pistorius was convicted for shooting his then-girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, to death. To make matters worse, the murder shared a macabre coincidence with the advertisement series, which contained branding messages like “I am the bullet in the chamber”, “my body is my weapon”, and such.

To be fair, nobody – not least Nike – could have predicted this turn of events. But then again, this just illustrates how marketing and advertising can often be unpredictable, especially when brands pin their reputations on certain celebrities. Nike should know this first hand, having previously suffered from negative publicity surrounding star endorsers like Kobe Bryant, Lance Armstrong, and Tiger Woods. In such instances, the best solution (and often the only solution) is to cut ties cleanly, and move on.

Lesson: Position your brand carefully. This includes the kind of spokespeople you want your brand to be associated with.

9. United Airlines

Marketing comprises a broad domain of strategic activities that includes advertising, public relations, promotions – anything that concerns interacting with the consumer. While the latest fiasco at United Airlines is not strictly a marketing blunder, it still serves as a timely reminder that image and customer relations management must work in tandem with planned marketing strategies in order to convey a consistent message to the public.

When consumer trust is compromised, it’s always going to take a disproportionate effort to win customers back. In the case of United Airlines, the company not only made the news this April for forcibly removing one of its passengers from an overbooked flight, it also became increasingly more notorious when news of other misconducts emerged. To make matters worse, the CEO, Oscar Munoz, issued a statement that was more accusatory than apologetic, further fanning the flames of public backlash. United Airlines was subsequently catapulted from mediocrity to international PR disaster, earning it the dubious merit of being ‘The World’s Most Hated Airline’.

Lesson: Own up to mistakes. A sincere apology is often the only way to quell controversies.