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Top 10 Marketing Disasters 2

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
These advertising campaigns were some of the worst of all time. For this list, we’ll be looking at even more failed promotional strategies that seriously missed their intended mark, or gave birth to terrible unexpected consequences. WatchMojo counts down Another Top 10 Marketing Disasters.

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Script written by Michael Wynands

Another Top 10 Marketing Disasters

Where was Don Draper when they needed him? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down Another Top 10 Marketing Disasters.

For this list, we’ll be looking at even more promotional strategies that seriously missed their intended mark, or gave birth to terrible unexpected consequences. If you don’t see a disaster you think should be here, be sure to check out our first video on the topic!

#10: An Illegal Weapon as a Giveaway

Electronic Arts
Producers of violent video games are always having to defend themselves from parent groups that claim that such entertainment make impressionable young minds similarly violent. When EA sent out a pair of commemorative, but functional, brass knuckles along with early press copies of Godfather II… they really gave the naysayers an easy argument. Worse than being bad for PR, this stunt was actually illegal, given that brass knuckles are banned outright in many states. You can appreciate that EA was getting into the spirit of their property, but the distribution of contraband weaponry via mail isn’t something a company wants on their rap sheet. They quickly asked that the knuckles all be returned.

#9: The ‘Endless Crab’ Fiasco

Red Lobster
Don’t offer up an all you can eat special on a popular and typically pricey item unless you’ve triple checked your calculations. Restaurants typically advertise doorbuster specials knowing that whatever the giveaway is, they’ll turn a profit on the complimentary products they move. In the case of this 2003 Red Lobster promotion however, someone grossly underestimated American appetites for crustaceans. Crab-lovers took their seats and proceeded to order plate after plate of the stuff. By the third serving, the restaurant was in the red, by the fourth, significantly so. By the end of a promotion lasting several months, Red Lobster had lost roughly $3.3 million, tanking the parent company’s stock value. President Edna Morris stepped down.

#8: The World's Largest Popsicle… Melts

Cleanup on aisle three! And by that we mean Manhattan’s Union Square. In 2005, Snapple decided to go big in the promotional stunt department for their new icy treats - 25 feet tall and 171.5 tons big to be precise. Aiming to set a world record, they constructed a monolithic popsicle, and then attempted to unveil it before the public in downtown New York. But first, it had to be transported from Edison, New Jersey on a hot summer’s day. And sure enough, as anyone who’s ever eaten a popsicle could’ve predicted - it melted. The grand unveiling was more a torrent of sticky juice, one that firefighters had to be called in to wash away.

#7: Making the CEO’s Social Security Number Public

It’s one thing to put your money where your mouth is… but your identity and personal security? That’s too much to gamble in any situation. Nevertheless, in a well-intentioned but wildly inadvisable PR stunt, Todd Davis, the CEO of Lifelock, which offers protection against Identity Theft, put his social security number on the company website, claiming that thanks to his company’s products, it didn’t matter. In the only possible outcome… Davis was promptly defrauded by criminals who were only too willing to prove the man wrong. Not once… but a reported 13 times. This spectacular failure naturally undermined people’s faith in the company, which was fined millions for deceptive advertising.

#6: #myNYPD Photo Campaign

Police brutality is a big problem in the United States, and has been a heated conversation for, quite frankly… decades. There’s far too much of a history of bad blood between major police departments across the nation and the general public, marginalized people in particular. So how is it NO ONE at the NYPD considered that this attempt at modern public engagement might turn ugly fast? For every smiling tourist photo taken with the NYPD, there’s an ugly pic of violent altercations, arrests or brutality at the hands of police officers. And sure enough, it was the latter that Twitter users submitted. And that’s a lesson in how NOT to use social media.

#5: The ‘Touch Woody’ PC & Its Equally Laughable Advertising

Back in the 1990s when personal computing was still finding its footing, Panasonic managed to come up with possibly the worst name and marketing possible. In an attempt to emphasize the user-friendly nature of this new Japanese computer, they licensed the Woody Woodpecker character to be used as not only the mascot, but the computer’s namesake as well. Meet “The Woody”! But wait… it gets worse. Because it boasted a touch screen, the Japanese company put out early promotional materials, with the tagline "Touch Woody - The Internet Pecker." Seriously… we couldn’t make this stuff up. Once they realized their mistake, they made some last minute changes, but “"Woody Touch Screen" isn’t much better.

#4: Invoking 9/11

World Wildlife Fund
There are some subjects that you just don’t address unless you’re doing it with the utmost delicacy - the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001... is one of them. It doesn’t matter how noble your intentions… people don’t want to hear it compared to anything else. Unfortunately, this a lesson that the World Wildlife Fund learned too late when the 9/11 attack was used as a unit of measurement to put the 2004 east Asian tsunami in perspective - and teach a lesson about respecting the planet. Their ad, created by ad agency DDB Brasil, showing jets flying at Manhattan was unsurprisingly met with public outcry after appearing in the Brazilian press, which forced the WWF to apologize.

#3: Free Flights

Though it’s hard to fathom in hindsight, back in the early ‘90s, someone at Hoover thought that it would be a good deal to offer free flights to British customers who bought 100 British pounds (somewhere around $175 USD in 1992) worth of their products. At first, the flights were limited to within Europe, but in a move that resulted in things really getting out of hand, the company eventually added U.S. destinations. The money people had to spend was the fraction of a normal ticket price, and so, people bought vacuums just for the trip. Utterly overwhelmed by the results, Hoover backed out of its promise, fired executives and lost tens of millions of dollars.

#2: Anonymous Love Letters

When you’re looking to buy a new car, you’re expecting a simple and professional exchange. In the early ‘90s however, Fiat broke with that time-honored dynamic and decided to mail anonymous love letters to the demographic of women in Spain they were targeting with their new Cinquecento hatchbacks. These letters were personally addressed, bore no Fiat branding and adopted the voice and perspective of the car. Characterized as an admirer, the car wrote stuff like "we met again on the street yesterday and I noticed how you glanced interestedly in my direction." Except, again, there was NO context… just a letter, so naturally, some 50,000 recipients thought they had a stalker.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions:

Windows 98 Demo by Bill Gates: When the Computer Crashed

Susan Boyle's Poorly Phrased Hashtag “#susanalbumparty"

Bud Light's ‘Up for Whatever’ Campaign

#1: Number Fever

As an attempt to increase sales in the Philippines, Pepsi held what seemed like a pretty standard numbered bottle cap giveaway, but with a big prize of 1 million pesos (or $40,000 USD). The promotion worked wonders and Pepsi experienced an astronomical rise in sales. Certain popular numbers, such as 349, were supposed to be eliminated from the grand prize draw, but somewhere the wires got crossed, and 349 was wrongly picked and announced as the winning number. The result? Hundreds of thousands of winners expecting a $40,000 payout. Pepsi backed out of the promise, and riots ensued. Pepsi faced lawsuits, trucks were burned and people were actually killed.


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