The following are 15 of the worst marketing blunders of all-time. While these campaigns may or may not have accomplished their missions, they did leave a lasting impression that’s hard to forget years after they were unleashed on the public. Every company has a marketing budget that they use to pay the best and brightest in ad campaign creation, to create terrific new branding initiatives, slogans, and commercials. The goal: motivate you to part with your hard-earned dollars. While sometimes it works out well, sometimes these companies fall flat on their faces. Some setbacks are easy to recover from, while others can lead to the downfall of an entire brand.
1. New Coke
New Coke tampered with a century old formula that, despite falling market shares, still resonated soundly with the public. What made New Coke such a bad marketing idea is that it essentially celebrated 100 years of a popular product by throwing out the formula people had grown to love and replacing it with something unproven. Its creation was an inadvertent admission that its primary competitor Pepsi had won the “cola wars,” something the Choice of a new generation quickly took advantage of when doing battle with the soda pop originator. Coca-Cola executives soon learned from the mistake however, and brought back the old formula.
2. Honda Asimo
Honda Asimo might not actually be that bad of an idea if Honda could ever get the kinks worked out. The approximately 4-foot tall, 119-pound astronaut child is capable of a wide range of movements, endangering the butler profession if not for one tiny little setback; it was very clumsy. Youtube and a variety of other video streaming websites proudly display the very public screw-ups of the Asimo in all their glory. Maybe a better use of Honda’s marketing efforts would be to take Asimo on the road as part of a new robotic slapstick comedy tour.
3. Circuit City DIVX
DIVX, or Digital Video Express, was the would be combatant with DVD when the home video movement advanced from VHS in the late 90’s. Circuit City – you know, the failed electronics big box – lost more than $114 million in the venture. They went out of business in 2009. The DIVX format was not unlike DVD, except you had to buy the disc for around four bucks. It would be playable for 48 hours after the first watch. From there, you had to purchase additional play time. And the machine itself tied up your phone line, which, at the time, was the only way you had of logging on the Internet. Viewers found the machines entirely too complicated to understand and opted instead to support DVD, a format that would allow you to simply buy the title and watch it (a much better idea in our estimations).
4. Ayds Diet Candy
After a strong sales showing in the appetite suppressant market during the 70’s, the Ayds brand had the unfortunate circumstance of trying to find an audience right around the time AIDS was scaring the hell out of people across the world. Considering that AIDS was, at the time, a disease that withered its victims away to nothing, the fact that Ayds was sold as a weight loss product created a sort of double whammy for the marketing campaign. Sometimes marketing disasters are man-made. For this one, fate seemed to play a significant role.
5. Casa Sanchez Tattoos
Marketing experts agree that the San Francisco eatery Casa Sanchez would have lost millions of dollars had they not capped off the craziness surrounding their 1999 tattoo promotion. According to the campaign, if a customer got a tattoo of the Casa Sanchez logo, they could eat there for free for the rest of their lives. Co-owner Martha Sanchez didn’t expect there to be such a huge response, but in an April 1, 2010 Wall Street Journal article, she revealed that they quickly had to cap the number at 50. The promotion was recently revamped by Casa Sanchez, though wisely, with new restrictions. The tattoo must be a certain size. The meal is only one per day. And prospects must be interviewed by Ms. Sanchez herself to make sure they are a good fit.
6. Calvin Klein’s Sex Sells Campaign (to Minors)
Sometimes a marketing failure doesn’t exactly equate with a financial failure. Calvin Klein proved this twice through his unofficially titled “sex sells” campaign. The first occurrence was in 1995 when Klein placed teenage boys and girls in sleazy basement-esque rooms and photographed them in suggestive poses wearing next to nothing. Parents and parents groups hated it, but kids loved it. (Of course they did.) Klein went back to the well in 1999 with an even younger group of toddler boys in just boxer briefs and shorts, which didn’t venture far off the path of child pornography. Somehow the fashion magnate thought it would be a good idea to stick them in underwear and apply the sexy black and white lens of his usual ads. People HATED it, and the ads were pulled in 24 hours.
7. The Beatles Yesterday and Today “Butcher” Album
The Beatles’ 1966 “Yesterday and Today” album – we’re talking the original cover – thrust the world’s favorite band into a sick and twisted light that even member George Harrison hated. The idea, known as “The Butcher Cover,” features dismembered baby dolls with meat cuts strewn all over them. It was the Beatles’ worst selling album, even after the cover was reissued shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, check your closets, these babies are rare and a “sealed” copy of the album can sell for as much as $30,000.
8. O.M.G.I.G.P. Vomit Girl from Microsoft
Dean Cain starred in the 2009 Microsoft ad campaign, known as the “Oh my God, I’m gonna puke” commercial (watch the video at your own risk), that announced the arrival of Internet Explorer 8. The ad features a wife asking to use her husband’s laptop once he’s done, which apparently has some disturbing content left over that he didn’t close out of. What she sees launches her into a vomiting frenzy. We do have to give the company some props for humor, though.
9. Farewell to the King…Burger King That Is
The folks at BK tried to make a star out of the Burger King for years starting in 2003, and all they ever got was that same consensus reaction: creepy. Of course, they didn’t set a good precedent with the King on their initial commercial. Who wants to wake up in bed next to a guy with a head the size of the Elephant Man’s? First quarter 2011 sales for BK were down 6%, and while we don’t think it’s fair to lay it all at his throne, the King certainly hasn’t been helping matters. The campaign was officially cut in August, 2011.
10. Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad
A Pepsi advertisement featured Kendall Jenner leading a march / protest with generic messages written on posters and eventually handed a Pepsi can of soda pop to a police officer. Pepsi said in a statement that they were “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize.” The message didn’t just miss the mark, it completely backfired, as social media went on a ranting frenzy. Pepsi seemed to keep the message generic in an effort to not support a specific cause because maybe they thought it would alienate a different cause. Either way, it didn’t fare well.
11. Above the Influence: Puppet on a String
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign may support a noble cause with its Above the Influence campaign launched in June 2010, but one of their least powerful commercials is counterproductive to the group’s overall message. Instead of showing the true horrors that occur as repercussions to drug use, they instead use the “Puppet on a String” advertisement to show party goers pulling a harmful and, quite frankly, funny joke on a girl, who has passed out from drug use (watch the video here). Choosing such a harmless dramatization decreases the importance of their anti-drug campaign and when compared to other more powerful spots, proves the old adage, “You win some, you lose some.” Loss.
12. Get Some Nuts: Mr. T Hates Speed Walkers
A marketing effort ceases to be effective when it displays an underlying message that is so blatantly overpowering, you lose sight of the product. Such is the case with the 2007 Mr. T “Get Some Nuts” promotion from Snickers (check out the video here). In the spot, Mr. T terrorizes a speed walker with effeminate tendencies by shooting Snickers bars at him through a Gatling gun. In the process, he “pities the fool” and criticizes him for his choice of exercise. Not surprisingly, LGBTQ support groups decried the message Snickers was sending to people about how it’s okay to discriminate against someone based on mannerisms.
13. Tom Ford Vaginal Fragrance Ad
Taking a page from Calvin Klein’s book, the fragrance line from Tom Ford decided to launch a 2007 campaign that consisted solely of a woman with her legs spread open, the only thing separating you from her special place being a bottle of their scent.
14. Skittles Kill People: Touch the Rainbow Campaign
Skittles took a page out of the King Midas playbook with their 2008 ad campaign about a guy, who turns everything he touches into Skittles. This somewhat clever ploy takes a dark turn, however, when the man in question bemoans the curse that his Skittles touch truly is, stating that he can’t hold his newborn grandson in his arms and that he accidentally killed a man on the bus that he met earlier in the day (watch the video here). “He’ll never see his family again.” Not exactly a blunder, but out there, nonetheless.
15. Life Call: I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
Life Call’s product was designed to help senior citizens, and we suppose it did. But with the horribly acted 1989 commercials – maybe you remember “I’m having chest pains!” or “I’ve fallen, and I CAN’T GET UP!” – the company turned situations that were meant to be serious into comedy material for just about every bad sitcom and stand-up comedian of the late 80’s, early 90’s.
This list of the 15 worst marketing blunders of all-time may have been a nostalgic little trip down memory lane for you. But as with most lists, I’m sure we’ve missed some great marketing fails by other companies, large and small. What should have made the list? Sound off below. We want to hear your comments! Lastly, if you’re looking for turn-key email marketing services, direct mail marketing services, or multi-channel marketing services – look no further – US Data Corporation can help![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]