Marketing Disasters

Oct 27, 2014

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Enjoy three of the most unfortunate marketing blunders we’ve seen

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After reading one of our old articles on 6 Deadly Marketing Mistakes, I took a look at some of the craziest marketing disasters ever to have happened.

One of the most costly mistakes a business can make is in its marketing activities, and unfortunately, it happens a lot. Here are three disasters that really did damage to their firms.

Nike and Oscar Pistorius

South African Oscar Pistorius was the first double amputee to qualify and run in the Olympics. He won the gold in the Paralympics and went on to run in the 2012 Olympics in London. He was seen as an inspiring athlete that showed the world that people can overcome disabilities to do great things.

Being the company that it is, Nike was quick to sponsor the “Blade Runner” and develop ads around him. One of these ads was a picture of Pistorius at the starting block and starting to run with the words, “I am the bullet in the chamber,” behind him.

Things only downhill from there. After word got out about a stimulant addiction he had where he would drink energy drinks and consume large amounts of caffeine pills, he bought six guns and often went to shooting ranges to practice shooting. He also developed a record of domestic violence.

Then he ended up shooting his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp, while she was in his bathroom. Even with quickly pulling the campaign, Nike lost millions of dollars, lost reputation, and their “Bullet in the Chamber” ad become strangely prophetic.

Snapple and the World’s Largest Popsicle

This is a fun one. In 2005, Snapple decided to expand into the popsicle market. As a promotional event to introduce the product, they came up with the idea to beat the World Guinness Record for the World’s Largest Popsicle. They would do so by putting up a 17.5-ton ice pop in New York City on the first day of summer, which we’re assuming means a nice, hot day.

After being placed in the freezer trailer and driven to Manhattan, the truck doors were opened to reveal a gushing waterfall of melted kiwi-strawberry Snapple juice. Because of safety concerns, firefighters were called to hose the juice and remains into the sewers as streets were closed off. The event was a massive flop.

Fiat and their direct-mail stalking campaign

In 1992, the Italian car company Fiat decided to do an advertising campaign to independent, working women. They put together direct-mail ads that advertised their new Cinquecento hatchbacks. They decided that to make it “cute,” they would design them like love letters from an anonymous person. Instead of being addressed to “Current Resident,” each letter was personally addressed. They made it really personal. In fact, it became creepy.

The letters, from a supposed anonymous author, said things like, “We met again on the street yesterday and I noticed how you glanced interestedly in my direction,” and “Dearest Isabel, Roses are red, violets are blue, check out this new car! I’m staring at you.”

Unsurprisingly, once the cards were mailed out, the reports of women unwilling to leave their homes and fearing for their lives because of some stalker started coming in. In a couple cases, it caused fights of jealousy among couples.

Social advocates and consumer protection groups came down hard on Fiat and the campaign was wiped slick as Fiat went into defense mode over their actions.

Hopefully, as tragic and entertaining as these flops are, they also act as a warning to any business. It’s important to have a set, comprehensive plan and be able to accurately target your audiences without being offensive.

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