As insomniacs and other long-time readers now, I am a big fan of Consumerist.com. The site does a great job of reporting on consumers’ (mostly but not always) unhappy experiences with companies. If you’re a marketer it’s a must read so at the very least you learn what not to do. All that said, I was dissappointed to read their list of the Top 10 Worst Marketing Gaffes, Blunders & Disasters:
Edison electrocutes an elephant
Tylenol Cyanide Scare
Beatles Yesterday & Today album art
Microsoft Blue Screen of Death press conference
Calvin Klein amateur porno-style ads
Honda robot falls down stairs
McDonald’s I’d Hit It
I can come up with a bunch just in the last couple of years that are worse than anything on this list.
The Tylenol thing was a PR disaster at first but once it became clear that the poison was the result of an outsider the public pretty much forgot about it, witness the brand’s success since then. The on-going Bausch & Lomb eye wash nightmare is far worse. Last year it was linked to an infection that caused blindness and another batch just cropped up today. This happened because of something in the manufacturing process and the PR response was a nightmare. This could actually destroy the brand.
The Microsoft and Honda things were embarassing but no way are they in the 10 worst. I’d put Judy Regan’s OJ book fiasco way ahead of those two if for no other reason than it was a deliberate and planned effort, not just a mishap with the demo of a product.
McDonald’s I’d Hit It? Yeah, everyone got a laugh over the misuse of slang for intercourse, but it’s hard to see that as a huge disaster. How about the Vioxx or Ambien stories? Ambien got bushwhacked with a PR problem when Patrick Kennedy blamed it for his renewed drug problem, which wound up being a big plus for rival drugs which could say they were non-addictive. Merck currently faces 27K lawsuits over Vioxx and even if they win every one the brand has suffered permanent damage.
Yesterday and Today wasn’t even The Beatles worst PR disaster, let alone one of the top 10 of all time. The band’s worst was John’s comment about being more popular than Jesus.
How about BP having its claim of being environmentally friendly blow up in its face when their Alaska pipeline started leaking like the Celtic’s defense?
Or how about Enron or even JetBlue’s recent problems or GM/Ford/Chrysler continuing to push SUVs as gas hit $3 a gallon? Or NBC blowing rigging a Ford pickup truck to blow up? Or the great Ford Pinto fiasco?
Or KFC and it’s rodent problem?
Kudos to Consumerist for getting historical with Edison and the Hindenberg, but they need to get up to date with their current marketing disasters. You guys are still one of the channels-of-choice for tracking business stupidity, let’s get this list right. Keep the top 3 and the always-wonderful new Coke disaster and replace the rest with some real disasters.
Remember back when Microsoft was presumed to be corporate evil personified? That was before Google discovered China and, of course, before Mr. Gates decided to turn himself into the world’s premier venture capitalist of public health. Well, maybe they’re not as evil … but they still do screw up. The company previewed its new Vista operating system in Latvia yesterday only to find out that in Latvian the word means chicken and is slang for a “frumpy old woman.” Yes, but it’s a frumpy old woman who is helping to rid the world of disease.