10 Greatest Marketing Blunders of All Time
Damien Peters | On 19, Oct 2013
The ghosts of marketing failures do not spare even the best of brands and agencies. Some of the brands who have suffered marketing failures have paid a really huge price in order to get past these blunders. Most of the times, marketing disasters occur due to lack of strategic coordination but more often than not, these failures occur due to unthinkable reasons, for example, use of a word at the wrong place, too much hype, miscalculated risks and sometimes because of sheer bad luck. Here is a compilation of top 10 marketing blunders the world has ever seen –
- Hoover’s Free Europe Tickets Blunder–This is a classic example of how to convert simplest of ideas into a disaster. It is a popular marketing strategy to offer free stuff to boost the sales in quick time. But what kind of profit you think you will make if the free prizes costs way more than the product itself! In 1992, Hoover Company initiated world’s most ridiculous campaign offering free flight tickets of a round trip to Europe for two on every purchase worth $100. The customers flooded the stores and soon the company incurred a loss of $50 million.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s LED Placards Blunder–Imagine a marketing strategy gone so horribly wrong that the police department as well as the fire department of a city like Boston went on a high alert because of it. Aqua Teen Hunger Force was an animated TV series which used to feature on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s and was quite popular at that time. In 2007, in an attempt to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie, various battery-powered LED placards were placed in several cities of US. Unfortunately the citizens of US thought these placards were some sort of explosives because of the visible circuit board and an attached wire mesh, making some people very suspicious. With bomb squads on streets and the army patrolling the city, the catchy marketing strategy quickly turned into a disaster.
- Silo Electronics Banana Campaign Disaster – People don’t always get indirect messages; this is exactly what went wrong for the electronics brand Silo’s marketing campaign. In 1986, the company introduced a promotional offer for their new radio sets, ‘Silo is coming for 299 bananas’. Of course by bananas they meant dollars but they never anticipated that their potential customers residing in El Paso and Seattle would literally raid their stores with bundles of bananas. The stores had to give away radio sets in exchange of bananas. Cost of 299 bananas was around $40-60 at that time which is quite less as compared to the intended $299 and therefore Silo suffered a loss of more than $10,000. Slangs are not always funny, isn’t it?
- Calvin Klein’s ‘Sex Sells’ Blunder – Calvin Klein’s controversial advertisements are known to have launched successful careers for a number of popular actors and models including Kate Moss, Brooke Shields, Antonio Sabato Jr. and hip hop sensation Marky Mark. But it’s not a good sign when your advertisements are not well received by the society to the extent that FBI had to step in and ban the promotions. Calvin Klein over-exploited their ‘sex sells’ strategies as they showcased minors displaying their almost naked bodies in order to promote the brand. Parents, in particular were offended the most by such clinging, oozing advertisements and ultimately the brand had to abort the campaign after FBI stepped in and investigated the whole matter.
- Failure of McDonald’s Free Treats Campaign–Ignorance is bliss! But when you are about to execute a marketing campaign for a power brand like McDonald’s you can’t afford ignorance in any form. In 1984, McDonald’s started ‘if US wins, you win!’ promotional campaign in which they offered a free burger along with a snack and a drink for every medal won by US. But they ignored a very important fact that two major medal contenders, Russia and Germany were not participating in that particular Olympics. US won 178 medals that year out of which 83 were gold medals and thus a huge financial damage occurred to this popular fast food giant.
- KFC’s Free Chickens – This is another example of miscalculations and exaggeration of hype. KFC offered free 2 piece chicken meals with individual sides and a biscuit to the viewers of popular TV show Oprah. All you needed to do was to visit the official website of the show and download a free coupon. People downloaded 10.5 million coupons and they rushed to KFC counters for their free meals. The chicken fast food giant incurred a loss of $42 million and yet more and more people were coming in for free food.
- Boycott of the New Coke Formula –We all are aware of the fact that Coca Cola is the global leader in the beverage industry but even this global giant has faced a major marketing disaster in the past. In early 1980s Pepsi began to get a stronghold in the market making Coke insecure about their dominant position. To tackle this crisis and to boost sales, the cola giant came up with a new formula in 1985, which was sweeter than the original one. They introduced the formula as ‘New Coke’ or ‘Coke II’. A lavish promotional campaign was created for the newer version and customers from all over world were eagerly waiting for its launch but within a few days of its launch, the company realised that the new formula is a blunder. While the brand focused more on the physical attributes of the beverage, they failed to realise the power of its symbolic character. The marketing disaster incurred huge losses to the company.
- Electrolux Slang Blunder–Sometimes we just say something and then suddenly we realise that the words coming out of our mouth bear more than one meaning, and we instantly feel embarrassed. Now imagine what kind of embarrassment an electronics giant like Electrolux must have felt when they would’ve realised that how their slogan, ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ is being interpreted in the US market. The poor Swedish multinational was trying to boost the sales of their newly introduced vacuum cleaners when they orchestrated this terrible slogan.
- Panasonic’s Touch Woody Disaster –Another double meaning tagline disaster was fashioned by electronics brand Panasonic when they launched a new PC and named it ‘Woody – the Internet Pecker’ (woody refers to male erection). But that’s not all; they later renamed the computer to ‘Touch Woody’ in order to highlight the touch screen features of the computer.
- The Ford Edsel Failure – In 1958 Ford Motor Company introduced a new automobile called Edsel. With this new model, company was trying to give tough competition to rival brands like GM Motors and Chrysler. The Edsel model was kept a secret until the final curtain lifting and a larger than life ad campaign was created in order to promote the new model. But unfortunately the hype surrounding the model was much bigger than the model’s features and specifications and therefore soon the new car bombed in the market, resulting in a loss of around $250 million to the company. Now that hurts, isn’t it?