Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008

Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.

(PS: If you liked this would you mind going here and voting for it on Digg?)

GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT

(tie)

The John McCain Presidential Campaign

  • “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
  • Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
  • Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
  • Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
  • “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
  • “Lipstick on a pig”
  • Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).

GM

Runners Up

  1. Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
  2. Framingham State College  uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
  3. Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
  4. Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
  5. JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
  6. Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
  7. Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
  8. Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
  9. Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
  10. Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar

Special Jury Awards

Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been

The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching

Product Failure

The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards

Previous years’ lists

Penguin seal

Who’s winning the World of Warcraft vote?

While McCain’s ad hominem attack on Dungeons & Dragons earlier this year would seem to put him at a distinct disadvantage, the poll results are surprising. And incredibly funny.

Thanks to Mike Elgan who writes the wonderful blog Raw Feed for this one!

Bitter dispute over sugar ad may bounce Czech government

A Czech government ad touting its turn to hold the presidency of the EU may and featuring a sugar cube may actually result in the downfall of the government.

The ad, built around the claim that the Czech’s invented the sugar cube (I always thought it Bjork), features the slogan, “We sweeten it for Europe.” However it “can also be translated in Czech as promising to give Europe a bitter lesson, making trouble for it or causing disgust. … [However] this has soured relations within the ruling coalition, with traditionally pro-European Christian Democrats attacking it.”

Apparently this kerfuffle is because the ruling party is split between pro & anti EU types.

Further confusing the issue is whether or not the Czech’s should claim ownership of the sugar cube. The ad claims it was a Czech invention dating from 1843. However reporters at the daily Lidove Noviny pointed out that the although it was created in what today is the Czech republic but was then an outcropping of the Austro-Hungarian empire by a Swiss named Jacob Christoph Rad. Speaking as a professional journalist, this is what’s known as a fun story.

Silly Czechs. How stupid to take an argument over sugar so seriously. They should follow our lead and argue about lipstick and whether it is placed on pigs or pitbulls.

For those of you not up on leading-edge political stupidity: The McCain campaign (slogan: “Truthiness is everything!”) is attacking O’Biden for saying “that Sen. John McCain’s claim that he will shake up Washington after agreeing with President Bush for so long is like ‘putting lipstick on a pig.‘”

It is a disingenuous attack, at best, given that McCain himself has used repeatedly, even to describe a health plan put forth by Hillary last year. Trotting out former acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift as the attacker is a nice sound-bite move that looks really dumb if you examine the facts.  True Ms. Swift is A) female, B) a mom and C) was sort of governor.

However her time in office was not a pretty one. She was named acting governor when her predecessor decamped to become ambassador to Canada. Despite having the governor’s office she couldn’t even carry her own party in her one attempt to win the job for herself and was defeated by Mitt Romney, a name you may have encountered. She was a notably inept governor:

By the end of her term, Swift was extremely unpopular with voters in the state (at one point having the dubious honor of a single-digit approval rating). This unpopularity was due in part to a perceived lack of effectiveness and in part to apparent abuses of her gubernatorial privileges, including: her use of a Massachusetts State Police helicopter to commute cross-state, from Boston to her home in North Adams; and, the use of State House aides to babysit her children.

Given all that is surfacing about Ms. Palin’s troubles in Alaska, Swift is not the best shade of lipstick for this issue.

Apparently the lesson Sen. McCain learned from his 2000 primary loss to Pres. Bush was that voters really don’t care that much about facts. I wish I could argue that it was a bad conclusion to come to.

BTW, Talking Points Memo has the following: A former McCain spokeswoman — who defended the senator when he made a joke about a woman raped by a gorilla — is also author of a book about being a political flack. The book’s title? Lipstick on a Pig.

During McCain’s 1986 Senate race, McCain was hit with allegations from women’s groups in Arizona that he’d told this knee-slapper (as quoted at the time by the Tucson Citizen)…

“Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, ‘Where is that marvelous ape?'”

McCain was defended by Torie Clarke who said, “John does not recollect telling that joke … And he has a very good record on women’s issues.” The reporter who wrote the original story disagreed then and now with Ms. Clark.

I want to see a pitbull put some lipstick on that pig.

Tea leaves not looking promising for McCain

I hesitate to make a prediction but the race for president may not wind up being as close as it currently looks.

First the TV audience:

  1. Hillary Clinton’s speech (26.0 million viewers) had higher ratings than Michelle Obama’s speech (22.3 million viewers).
  2. Almost five times as many people (26 million) watched Day Two coverage in 2008 vs. Day Two in 2004 (5.9 million) when only the cable networks covered the convention

It will be interesting to see the numbers for tonight. But last night’s numbers don’t suck either:

  1. More than 24 million people watched the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention — a 7.5% decrease from 26 million viewers on day two of the convention.
  2. Wednesday night’s speeches, which featured Former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Senator Obama and Senator Joseph Biden’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for vice president, drew 12.2% of all African American viewers — down slightly from the prevous night when Hillary Clinton addressed the convention (12.7%), but up from day one (12%), when Michelle Obama spoke.
  3. Viewers age 55 and older continue to dominate the DNC’s TV audience, with 18.1% of all Americans in that age group — 12.5 million people — tuning in to Wednesday night’s convention coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, BET, and TV One.

Perhaps most telling is this: The 24 million who watched last night was a third larger than the 18 million who watched day three of the 2004 Democratic snooze fest.

Then the live audience:

According to the Dayton Daily News, Sen. John McCain is still giving away tickets to his Friday rally where he will unveil his running mate. He’s having trouble filling a 10,000 seat arena.

(BTW, all 75K seats seem filled for tonight’s speech at Mile High Stadium by Mr. Obama)

All of which may be caused by the McCain campaign’s astounding ability to say exactly the wrong thing. First there was former advisor Phill Gramm’s “American’s are whiners” reaction to the current economic troubles. This of course was still eclipsed by the candidate himself saying he didn’t know how many houses he had. While nothing will ever top that one there’s today’s wonderful bon bête on how to deal with the health insurance issue:

“The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care. So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.” — John Goodman (not the actor), president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank, and the person who helped draft. Sen. John McCain’s health care policy.

Best line in the story: “Goodman said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort.” I believe Goodman was quoting a classic solution to problems of the poor originally conceived of a by a Mr. Dickens. Too bad he hadn’t read Mr. Swift.

Suddenly the malaprops of Dan Quayle and even the our current Inarticulator-In-Chief don’t seem so bad.

All that said, the good senator from Arizona is hardly out of it by any account. Should he pick either Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Christine Todd Whitman (former governor of New Jersey and ex-chief of the EPA) as VP he could really make it close. That would get him a lot of Hillary defectors. While the senator has been mentioned as a possible veep it is as the longest of shots, the governor has not even got that close.

BTW, you could save some time and read this stuff at the place I get it: Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire. I  recommend it highly.

Covering O’Biden or McCan’t conventions a giant waste of media money

The political conventions are perfectly timed this year, serving as a perfect antidote to the just finished Munich Beijing Potemkin Olympics. Whatever their many moral faults, the Olympics weren’t boring.

This year I became entranced with field hockey. That was fun to watch. Not as much fun as Usian Bolt, but nothing is as much fun as watching Bolt. The fun couldn’t even be spoiled by the commentator kvelling about how if Bolt had just really focused when he won the first two gold medals he really could have done something. A) He won the damn races going away, so shut up. B) He showed plain old fashioned joy while doing it, so shut up.

The only thing that could have made these games better would have been if NBC had dedicated one channel to a constant live feed of the complete lack of activity in the officially sanctioned protest sites. Oh wait. One other thing could have made this better… any sign of moral cojones on the part of the athletes. Dudes & Dudettes this is the 40th anniversary of Tommie Smith & John Carlos simply raising their fists in salute during the Mexico City games. Yeah, they had to put up with a feces storm the likes of which I can’t imagine. But they never had to wonder about their own integrity. I wish one medal winner had had the courage to receive his or her award with a piece of tape over his or her mouth. That’s all it would have taken. It’s not like you were being asked to stand unnarmed in front of a tank. My self-righteousness is unjustifiable. I participated too. I watched the damn things.  I wasn’t even willing to sacrifice changing the channel, who the hell am I to ask others to do anything?

But I digress …

Now our dusk to dawn interlude of strange and interesting sports and moral peregrinations is about to give away to O’Biden vs. McCan’t. At a time when the press is bleeding money it is impossible for me to understand the amount of money that is spent covering two events with practically no news value whatsoever. I have been told there will be some 4,000 15,000 (thanks Tim!) members of the media covering each convention. 4K people spend a week hoping one person — any person — makes a mistake by straying from the script.

It would be tougher — and more interesting — to cover a house fire. (Actually I’ve never covered a pre-scripted event, so maybe they are tougher than they look. I have covered fires. I know those are tough.)

And just a note to the O’Biden team — WHO THE HELL DOES A MAJOR NEWS RELEASE ON A SATURDAY IN AUGUST? Any bump from the announcement is dead by the time Monday rolls around and people start paying attention again. It almost looks like you didn’t want the pick of The Human Wind Tunnell to get much play.

Suffice to say, we will all be well and fully informed watching whatever snippets The Daily Show and Colbert Report decide to run.

Just as idiotic as the resources spent on covering the conventions is the importance given to them. It will be banner headlines everywhere when Obama gets the official nod but I have no idea why. I always thought news was supposed to contain … well … news. It would be amazing if anything that happens at either confab rises to a level that justifies putting them above the fold on the front page. (Note: This is jargon from back in the time when dead trees were kings of the media world. Above the fold means the news is important enough to be on that prime piece of real estate first seen by the consumer. Below the fold means it is important but still on the bottom of page one and therefore on the side of a folded paper away from the consumer. Anyone wishing to learn more useless newspeak from back when mastodons roamed the media should email me. -30-)