Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Marketing is a tricky business.Companies, of course, are eager to attract as much attention as possible. But when they get the message wrong, all those eyeballs can backfire big time.
We’ve put together a list of some of the worst marketing misfires in recent memory.
A lot of these mistake seem obvious with hindsight, but, at the time, no one at the companies saw them coming.
Hopefully this list will serve as a primer for what your business should avoid, and a reminder that even a carefully-planned campaign can quickly go off the rails.
Hoping to show off its billion dollar renovation, Holiday Inn aired this classic 1998 commercial on advertising's biggest stage, the Superbowl. Apparently, comparing their new look to a transsexual at a high school reunion didn't hit quite the right note. Protests and boycotts from gay, lesbian and transgender groups quickly had Holiday inn on the defensive.
Check out the original video below.
The fact that the World Wildlife Fund's wanted to draw attention to the devastation caused by the East Asian Tsunami is admirable. But illustrating the size of the disaster by re-imagining 9/11 (and just in time for the 8th anniversary of the national tragedy) is not.
Just for Feet was a relatively unknown brand looking to make a splash on the national level with this 1999 commercial. But the story of a Kenyan runner drugged by white paramilitary troops who awakens to find Nikes stuck on his feet struck more than a few viewers as downright racist.
The controversy that ensued was so bad Just For Feet actually sued the creative agency behind the project, Saatchi and Saatchi.
Check out the video below.
Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart, was a paid pitchman for Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor. 'Just because I'm a doctor doesn't mean I don't worry about my cholesterol,' he told viewers.
Funny thing is, Jarvik never practiced medicine, and once Congress got wind of it, an embarrassed Pfizer quickly yanked the ads.
We spotted this horrendous marketing campaign earlier this summer.
Spirit Airlines tried to stay topical by referencing the Gulf oil spill in their travel ads. They quickly realised that making light of one of the worst environmental disasters of our time isn't a wise choice.
The resulting backlash caused the company to pull the ads, although Spirit maintained people simply misunderstood their message.
Sometimes it's best to stick with what you know. American Apparel is famous for its racy ads featuring company employees in provocative poses.
But when the company tried to branch out with a billboard featuring Woody Allen, the comedian sued them for unauthorised use of his image, eventually collecting a hefty $5 million settlement.
In an ill fated attempt to create some viral buzz, Sony created a fake fan site 'All I Want For X-Mas Is A PSP.' But suspicious gamers quickly tracked the domain back to the corporation and unleashed a torrent of anger on video gaming sites and forums.
As the popular Penny Arcade blog put it, 'Unwilling to let an increasingly savvy portfolio of titles speak to gamers directly, they chose instead to bring aboard guerrilla marketing gurus Zipatoni to do irreparable damage to their brand.'
Check out the hysterically bad original video below.
Beer giant Molson tried to give its brand a bump by running a campaign to find the best party school in Canada. It asked fans to submit their craziest photos via Facebook, with the winner getting a trip to Cancun.
A torrent of underage drinking pics, followed by angry letters from school and government officials, forced Molson to cancel the promotion.
For a recent Dr. Pepper campaign, Coke tried to tap into the power of Facebook by sponsoring a competition where the company would take over users' status updates.
But after a sly reference to the infamous porn video 2 Girls One Cup appeared on the page of a 14 year old girl an enraged mother complained on MomsNet.com and the promotion came to a screeching halt.
LeBron James, eager to build his personal brand, turned his latest free agency into a massive media event. Along with opening a sponsored Twitter account the baller carved out a special hour for himself on ESPN.
But the event came off as an over-hyped, egotistical play for media attention, and it earned nearly universal scorn in the press and made him more than a few enemies among average basketball fans.
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