3 Triumphs + 3 Failures = 5 UX Lessons

User Experience (UX) is a multidisciplinary field that encompasses various aspects of the feelings and emotions of a user while interacting with a product, system or service. In the digital landscape, both UX and marketing play a critical role in the success of a brand. While they may be aligned in their focus on telling a brand’s story, they are fundamentally different in their approach. Marketing is a linear story while UX is non-linear. If marketing is the promise, then UX is the performance that delivers the promise.

Over time, I have come to realise that UX and Marketing are two sides of the same coin. The more we read between the lines and the deeper we delve into this subject we understand that marketing today is not just about promoting brands. It is about evoking an emotional response from people – be it ordering food from your favorite restaurant to unboxing a new Apple MacBook. Even the modern-day Santa got his personality through a mere Christmas campaign conducted by one of the largest conglomerates in the world. And ever since, the beginning of Christmas has not just been the smell of ginger, pumpkin and spiced goods but the entire season that is marked with the red and white palette of Coca-Cola.

The success or failure of a marketing campaign has almost everything to do with its user experience. As a UX professional, I have a keen interest in marketing innovations because it ultimately has an impact on the overall experience. I looked at various marketing initiatives, both national and international, to extract UX lessons which could serve to enrich the domain. There’s much to learn from these campaigns, regardless of the reasons that made them popular.

The Triumphs:

1. Lifebuoy Kumbh Mela – An affair of heat stamped rotis and clean hands

An unusual marketing strategy that was carried out during the Kumbh Mela drew a lot of attention – and hands in this case, towards Lifebuoy. Done in such a seemingly effortless yet striking way, it was an ingenious cost-effective idea.

A simple message was stamped on over 2.5 million rotis at the Kumbh Mela translating to “Did you wash your hands with Lifebuoy?”. This was something that people just couldn’t miss out on, rather wouldn’t be able to, especially when it’s a message imprinted on your food!

A big congregation like this called for a big idea – if not bigger. Since the Maha Kumbh was a spiritual affair, Lifebuoy decided to get customers in touch with the brand in more unconventional ways rather than the usual gimmicky stalls & posters around health & hygiene. Lifebuoy accomplished its aim of increasing awareness among people by using just a heat stamp and a question that generated millions to eat with cleaner hands at the Kumbh Mela.

My UX takeaway:

The event of the Kumbh Mela provided to be the perfect opportunity to reach a large audience due to its massive scale. Using roti as the medium for an advertisement was a unique and effective choice because it caught people by surprise at a seducible moment – when they were hungry and about to eat! By choosing such an unorthodox medium to market – where the roti became the canvas of the story, the campaign was a clever way to capture the attention of a diverse group of people, with or without access to technology, because everyone would have to eat eventually! The fact that everything was done in a pretty sustainable and environment friendly manner made it even better.

2. The Coinbase Super Bowl QR Code AdOf Nostalgia and a QR code

Here’s another example of a remarkable ad that people could not ignore. Coinbase’s 60-second Super Bowl ad displayed a colourful, bouncing QR code on a classic black background that redirected users to its website for a sign-up bonus. It was reminiscent of the old iconic DVD player screen where nostalgia blew-up this commercial so much so that it crashed the app.

If we go to see, the ad didn’t really move mountains to get noticed. Their marketing strategy was crisp and clear and that itself generated a massive influx of traffic on their website. It was truly a clutter-free ad!

My UX takeaway

In marketing and UX, the most important thing is to achieve the desired outcome, such as getting people to click on an ad or complete a task within a product. A clear call to action is the most effective way to guide users towards this goal. If users do not know what to do next, then any amount of story-telling would be redundant. In marketing, just like UX, it’s not always necessary to create a flashy ad with high production costs and expensive models in order to achieve success – it’s about hitting the business goal. Here, the goal was to make people click. And even with minimal effort in design, a conventionally unintersting ad like this managed to surpass their own target! If there is anything this ad teaches us, it is to be a purple cow. It is more important to be different than to be fancy in order to make a striking impression.

3. Amazon ‘Aur Dikhao’ Campaign – When more is more

This campaign was designed by Amazon to appeal to the typical Indian – someone who is known to thoroughly examine and compare all their options to get the best deal out there. The colloquial ‘AurDikhao’ tagline was aimed at aptly representing this behaviour which reflects India’s collective love for variety in shopping. The campaign worked so well that it eventually blew up on all social media platforms and got its own Twitter hashtag #AurDikhao.

My UX takeaway

Contrary to the global design philosophy of minimalism where less is more, it is important to remember that when in India, more is more. This campaign hit the nail on the head by tapping into the country’s desire for abundance. Another thing that was spot on was the use of hinglish in their campaign communication. It was the most clever way for the brand to make a country accepting of a message that is being conveyed to them and really helped create a sense of familiarity that made the brand feel like their own. It also merged the old and new, combining the chaos and abundance of a traditional kirana store with the freshness, reliability and speed of a modern e-commerce brand.

The Failures:

1. The Tata Nano – The slow-death of a revolutionary automobile

The Tata Nano as we know it, was the brain-child that was born as a result of an evasive gap between the upper and lower-middle class in the automobile industry.
But the legacy of this cute little bumblebee car finished before it even started. It was a short-lived one indeed. Tata aimed for it to be a “People’s car” that was meant to aid the regular Indian with a safer and more stable mode of commute than the usual two-wheelers.
Unfortunately, negative marketing caught up with the well-paced Nano and rendered it to be “The poor man’s car”.
The Nano run was served with a great deal of doubt & scepticism along with a pinch of elitist criticism. And it soon began to be rejected by the people it was made for.

Ratan Tata accepted in an interview that marketing the Nano as the ‘cheapest car’ may have been a mistake as they failed to understand the psychology of the Indian buyer. They positioned themselves as ‘Lakhtakiya’ (translated as ‘worth a lakh’) and their biggest USP was the fact that it was a One-Lakh-Rupee car; but their severe lapse in judgement made for ignorant communication. Instead of selling themselves as affordable – they ended up selling themselves as cheap. And contrary to popular opinion, humans are obsessed with their social status and ownership of status symbols, no matter what class they are born from. By branding itself as a cheap car, the Nano killed its own buzz that eventually ended as a cul-de-sac for the brand.

My UX takeaway

When creating an experience, it’s important to remember that people often make decisions based on emotions rather than logic. A study called the ‘drive and blocks’ analysis helps identify the motivations and apprehensions of a user. Examples of some drives could be a desire for independence, want of a status symbol, a sense of accomplishment, desire for safety and security or a need for convenience. And on the other hand, reasons such as lack of financial resources, lack of confidence in driving abilities, fear of the unfamiliar, or enironmetal concerns could be the certain blocks for a buyer. This is a valuable insight into understanding that people don’t just buy something because it is cheap but factors like how the product makes them feel or whether it aligns with their personal values or not also play a very important role in the decision making process.

2. Dove Limited Edition ‘Body Positivity’ Packaging – A limited edition death sentence?

Another infamous example of marketing gone rogue would be the Dove limited edition ‘body positivity’ packaging where they designed 7 abstractly shaped soap bottles to represent the diverse female body types. Simply put, their blatant obliviousness ended up sending out the wrong message. These bottles nudged women to choose the bottle that matched their shape which in turn, ended up increasing body-consciousness instead of reinforcing self-confidence.

Dove didn’t take into consideration the mentality of the women that would be picking up these bottles. They didn’t think through what a conventionally chubby or skinny woman would go through while selecting a bottle from the department store shelf – and the amount of open judgement and criticism this would shout for.

This was a problem Dove did not need to solve. In fact, there was no problem to begin with. Dove got severely slammed on social media for this faux pas. Brands often miss the mark because they constantly miss out on the key factor that makes or breaks a campaign – the user’s emotions.

My UX takeaway

While it is important to try and stay relevant and keep up with current social issues, it is also important to be mindful of the potential risks and consequences of doing so. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid tackling controversial issues rather than having it backfire as insincere marketing – a user can easily see through a fabricated experience. Brands don’t need to try so hard to be relatable – authenticity is key to achieve engagement with its audience. It’s best to steer away from inaccurate demonstrations rather than having a limited or incomplete representation of it.

3. Zomato MC BC Campaign – Of tongue-in-cheek puns or ordinary misogyny?

An absolute blasphemous campaign that grabbed the attention of millions, was the ‘MC BC’ ad by Zomato. The ad plays with the puns ‘MC’ and ‘BC’ – acronyms for Hindi profanities – that were meant to imply ‘mac n’ cheese’ and ‘butter chicken’. However, their short-sighted quirkiness proved to be a major disaster and was not taken well by many. In fact, many quoted the campaign to be plain and outright sexist, crass, and misogynistic. There is a consensus among advertising and branding experts that the campaign in question was not well received by the masses, due to its poor taste in language. This had the potential to damage the company’s goodwill and alienate potential customers.

An outrageous campaign like this got Zomato speed-dialling incessant outrage from its audience that forced Zomato to take a step back, stop it’s press, and reflect.

My UX takeaway

It is not an uncommon strategy for young brands to aspire to keep up with the latest trends in order to be relatable to their younger audience. However, it is important for brands to consider whether a particular trend is a good fit for their brand and audience or not. It is important for brands to sensitize their campaigns and ensure mindful communication.

While it’s great to add some sort of quirkiness through a campaign’s communication for more mass appeal – especially Gen Z today, certain things like the usage of profane language and misogynystic puns may be pushing it a bit too far. Sometimes it’s a lot better to have simple and direct communcation rather than a funky and flashy controversial one.

The UX Lessons

  • Users are like onions
    Success of amazon’s ‘Aur Dikhao’ campaign and the failure of Tata Nano both reinforce the fact that users make emotional decisions. Peel the layers to get to the core.
  • Be a purple cow
    Coinbase and Lifebuoy both dared to be different and reaped the rewards. Differentiate or die.
  • Be balanced or face the backlash
    Zomato clearly went too far in its attempt at being funny. Humour is a benign violation. It’s important to walk that tight rope.
  • Don’t forget the call to action
    The focus for Coinbase was to get people to their website and the floating QR code did that brilliantly. At the end of the day, the success of an ad depends on its ability to make people take the appropriate action. It’s the north star to your entire campaign.
  • Get the timing right
    A seducible moment is a specific instance where an ad is most likely to influence the target customer. Lifebuoy’s roti campaign got the timing just right, to deliver their message, not before, not after, but just when a Kumbh attendee was about to start eating. So, it’s not just about delivering the right message. It’s about the right message, at the right time!

At the end of the day, UX and marketing are two peas in a pod. They are simply different mediums to achieve the same goal. If marketing gets you into the party, UX gives you reason to stay.


  • https://www.bluleadz.com/blog/10-of-the-biggest-marketing-fails-of-2017
  • https://www.businesstoday.in/lifestyle/off-track/story/maha-kumbh-mela-lifebuoy-unilever-campaign-38415-2013-02-08
  • https://www.theverge.com/2022/2/13/22932397/coinbases-qr-code-super-bowl-ad-app-crash
  • https://www.exchange4media.com/marketing-news/amazon-india-relaunches-iconic-aur-dikhao-campaign-120286.html
  • https://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/the-success-of-aur-dikhao-campaign-of-amazon-india-limited/
  • https://www.peppercontent.io/blog/why-tata-nano-branding-was-a-failure/
  • https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/nano-to-remove-tag-of-poor-mans-car-ratan-tata/articleshow/11375163.cms
  • https://www.dailyo.in/voices/who-killed-lakhtakia-tata-nano-car-ratan-tata-middle-class-snobbery-cheapest-car-tag-25471
  • https://www.afaqs.com/news/advertising/amazon-india-relaunches-iconic-aur-dikhao-campaign
  • https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/dove-body-image/525867/
  • https://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/coinbase-qr-code-super-bowl-commercial-drove-kpis/2400511
  • https://www.thequint.com/neon/social-buzz/zomato-ad-hoarding-cheeky-mc-bc

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