Top 10 marketing blunders of 2007

  1. Penguins Employee of the monthTake Two software features OJ Simpson in its new All Pro Football game. In the game Simpson plays on a team called The Assassins. The mascot is a hooded figure who makes stabbing motions with a large knife in the end zone when the Assassins score.
  2. Tie: Several companies don’t realize that references to Nazis are offensive.
    1. A Mumbai-based home furnishing company releases “The Nazi Collection” of bedspreads that feature swastikas. Although the swastika is a symbol of luck in India that goes back thousands of years, the company’s explanation for the name of the collection – it allegedly was an acronym for “New Arrival Zone for India” – put the lie to that.
    2. Zara, a UK retail chain, pulls bags that are found to have swastikas on them.
    3. Bell Canada has to pull ads that show a young woman wearing a button that says “Belsen Was A Gas” – a reference to a song by the Sex Pistols.
    4. Italian winery releases Der Fuerher branded wine. Labels feature Nazi leaders, etc. Italian police not amused and seize wine. Wonder what happened to the evidence?
  3. Cartoon Network fails to notify authorities that it will be placing odd electronic devices on bridges. In Boston, hilarity ensues. Nine other cities in the US scratch their heads. Parent company Turner Broadcasting coughs up $2 million for Boston’s freak out. Nine other cities in the US wish they’d freaked out, too.
  4. Tie: car companies can’t figure out that suicide isn’t funny:
    1. GM runs Super Bowl ad that shows robot getting laid off from job at GM plant and killing itself.
    2. VW ad shows man coaxed back from jumping off ledge by news that VW has cars priced less than $17K.
  5. Hershey begins selling Ice Breakers Pacs – small, clear-plastic envelopes of white powder. Police have problem with this. Hershey fails to capitalize. Does not claim that snorting breath mint is healthier than snorting cocaine or heroin.
  6. Johnson & Johnson sues the Red Cross over the use of… wait for it … the red cross.
  7. German campaign to raise funds for UNICEF features blonde kid in black face. Quoting AdFreak: This campaign was meant to raise support for schools in Africa, but even that part of the message is mangled by lines that sound like they’re condemning an entire continent: “In Africa, kids don’t come to school late, but not at all.” The campaign’s apparently been pulled after international criticism, although UNICEF notes that there was no “negative reaction from the German public after publication.”
  8. Spirit Airlines two-fer:
    1. Doesn’t realize that its “Many Islands, Low Fares” promotion will result in a very unfortunate acronym.
    2. CEO Ben Baldanzasends email berating customers asking for a refund to said customers. Head of corp. communications adds fuel to the fire with following quotes:
      “No, we really don’t believe we have anything to apologize for regarding Ben’s e-mail.”
      “I can tell you that Ben cares enormously about our customers and our customer service. Ben said what is exactly true: that we don’t owe the customer anything. People can and do post whatever they would like on the Internet. But it cannot alter your adherence to your company policy or your procedures.”
  9. Virginia tourism agency runs ads showing people flashing a hand signal used by the Gangster Disciples
  10. Apple manages to generate ill will during most successful product release of the year. Shortly after the release of the Jesus Phone, Apple cut the price of the iPhone by $200, thereby pissing off early buyers and giving the press a reason to take a break from gushing over the gadget. This would have ranked higher but it had no impact on sales whatsoever. Great product will survive.

2008 Nominations now open…

Coming soon the famous Collateral Damage list of the year’s worst press releases.

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13 thoughts on “Top 10 marketing blunders of 2007

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  2. not sure the red cross/J&J gets a blunder. As I understand it, if you look @ the suit, J&J and Red Cross have an agreement since forever that they both can use the logo, as long as the Red Cross doesnt attempt to profit or enter J&J’s line of business. The Red Cross was selling things such as scissors, beauty supplies, and some first aid things at convenience stores, right next to the J&J items w/ similar logo. Seems like a perfectly fair use of lawsuits; a good example of the law working.

  3. Y’know if you’re going to start interjecting facts into the arguments it’s just going to mess up the humor….

    I agree with your point about the law and the fact that J&J was right. But from a PR standpoint it was a disaster. The headline was J&J sues Red Cross over red cross and, sadly, that’s all most people saw.

  4. J&J the Family Company is suing the Red Cross! That is hilarious! And you are right it does not matter what the actual details of the lawsuit are – they are suing the Red Cross, their reputation took a big kick in the pants.

  5. suicide is funny. so is making fun of O.J. Simpson.

    what kind of blunder results in no sales impact? a non-blunder, that’s what. oh no, we generated media ill will. get over it.

    did everyone lose their sense of humor some time in the last 20 years? grow up people. life’s too short to be offended by television. unless you’re willing to boycott the actual television set. then your life may be a little longer.

  6. Actually, for the most part, suicide isn’t funny. If you think it is, that’s great but I dare you to get up in front of an audience and do some jokes about it. When someone argues that a topic is or isn’t funny, I always want to know his or her bonafides. Have you ever actually tried selling that particular product?

    Humor is about connecting with your audience. very few people can connect with a large audience on the topics of murder and/or suicide. If what you want to do is connect with a small, edgy audience then you certainly can. But these were mass market efforts aimed at connecting with the largest audience possible. If that’s your goal then these are not topics you can use.

    There are a few folks who can do these topics and be funny — the ones that come to mind are David Cross, Bobcat Goldthwait and Robert Altman. Cross is the only comedian I’ve come across to successfully do a bit about 9/11 (it’s about being in Vegas at New York New York and it’s amazing). Bobcat also did a great bit on his last album about death and murder. Altman did suicide funny in M*A*S*H* and murder funny in The Player.

    I’ve yet to see an agency/client combo that is willing to take the risks that would be needed to do humor on either of these topics and have it actually turn out funny. BTW, in order for that video game to have made fun of OJ it would have had to not give him money. I’m all in favor of making fun of Simpson — but that glorified him, put some money in his pocket and gave the whole thing a big ugly wink.

    You have a point when you write, “what kind of blunder results in no sales impact? a non-blunder, that’s what. ” Yeah, it’s hard to find a large fault with a marketing move that doesn’t hurt sales. However, it’s never a good sign when the product succeeds despite its marketing.

  7. Have to say that Spirit air and J&J are about the funniest. The look on the faces of the geniuses behind those SNAFU’s would be priceless.

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