BP’s marketing stupidity flows even faster than its oil

I have never said this so early in a year before but … the worst marketing of the year competition has been decided. BP’s ongoing attempts to clean up its reputation as it fails to clean up the Gulf are so horrendous it is impossible for anyone else to catch up.

It is only fair to point out that BP has used a ringer, someone whose skills are so extraordinary that having him on the team is almost like cheating. I speak, of course, of soon-to-be-unemployed CEO Tony Hayward. Hayward is so astoundingly dangerous in front of a microphone that he makes Joe Biden and former GM CEO Rick Waggoner seem like the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

street-giant-BP-cares-white-thumb First there was the spectacularly stupid whine about wanting his life back. In one little phrase Hayward made it clear that he views this entire incident as an imposition on him and can’t quite remember that actual lives have been lost.

But wait, that’s not all! Today he replied to his critics thusly: "They’ve thrown some words at me, but I’m a Brit. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” OK everyone, put down the tar and feathers and go get some sticks and stones. If Mr. Hayward continues on in this manner his PR staff will likely be first in line to deliver the wood-and-rock therapy.

Speaking of BP’s PR staff … no one – not even John McCain – can win an award of this magnitude all by themselves. Mr. Hayward is being aided and abetted by a group of people whom I must assume are paid many millions of dollars a year and whom I wouldn’t let promote a church car wash. These are people like BP spokesman Randy Prescott: who said, “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”

But, let’s be honest, these are just individual gaffes from individual idiots. This is really an enterprise-wide award which takes enterprise-wide effort to take it up another level and execute some truly world-class stupidity. To wit a brief list:

Congrats to all those responsible at BP and God help us all.


Worst of the Worst: The List of 2009’s 10 worst lists

2009’s 10 worst …

  1. IPOs (The Street)
  2. Films (t5m)
  3. Economic Myths Reiterated by “The Media” (BusinessAndMedia) 
  4. Ads (BNET)
  5. Obsessions (Scene)
  6. Movies (Metromix)
  7. Odd, Overreaching ‘Decade’ Lists (AtlanticWire – and they went with 9 just to be different)
  8. Toys (W.A.T.C.H.)
  9. Sex Scenes (YourTango)
  10. iPhone Apps (Fortune)
  11. Tech Failures (ReadWriteWeb)
  12. Concept Cars (AskMen)
  13. Linux Distributions (DaniWeb)
  14. Countries to be a Blogger (CPJ)
  15. Real Estate Markets (Fortune)
  16. Album Covers (AOL) 
  17. States for Job Losses (ClassesAndCareers)
  18. Sexy Halloween Costumes (Washington City Paper)
  19. US Cities for Traffic (RealEstateBloggers)
  20. Exchange Traded Funds (EveryDayFinance)
  21. Stocks (MotleyFool)
  22. Celebrity Endorsements (Financial Times)
  23. Rock albums (About.com)
  24. Pop Culture Halloween Costumes (BuddyTV)
  25. Foods (Shine)
  26. Summer Jobs (AutoBlog)
  27. Cities for Asthma (eMedicine)
  28. US Cities for Rodents (TheRealEstateBloggers)
  29. Dictators (Parade)
  30. US Places to Live (StrollerDerby)
  31. iPhone apps (ITPro) 
  32. Social Media Marketing Tips (Social Media Today)
  33. Movies (Examiner.com)
  34. Airports (Travel + Leisure)
  35. Things That Are Behind Us Now (AdAge)
  36. Predictions (Foreign Policy)
  37. Tax Gimmicks (Fox And Hound)
  38. Movies (Columbus Other Paper)
  39. Video Games (Virgin Media)
  40. Movies That Failed To Live Up To The Hype (IGN)
  41. Business Deals (Time)
  42. Dressed World Leaders (Time)
  43. Gay Happenings (AutoStraddle)

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?)



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).


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

Firm launches Lolita brand of beds for young girls … hilarity ensues

The Woolworths chain of retail stores in Britain has withdrawn the sale of beds named Lolita and designed for six-year-old girls after furious parents pointed out that the name was synonymous with sexually active pre-teens.

“Lolita, light of my life, home of my thread count. My Simmons, my Sealy, my Serta. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the Tempurpedic. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

This is what happens when you cut funding to education.

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Fortune blunders in its year-end list of business blunders

Surprisingly, I am not the only one to chronicle the year’s dumbest business moments. The folks at an obscure little publication called Fortune have also put out a list and it’s one I must quibble with. By and large it’s pretty good… Eli Lily marketing Prozac for dogs, Merrill Lynch giving CEO Stanley O’Neal $161M for retiring after overseeing some of the worst losses in company history, the Cartoon Network fiasco … but nestled in at #9 is one that is just flat out wrong:

Ooh-la-la, gross! The French daily Le Monde calls Ratatouille, Pixar’s movie about a rat in a kitchen, “one of the greatest gastronomic films in the history of cinema.”

Ummm, guys and gals, DID YOU SEE THE MOVIE? Ratatouille (best movie I saw this year) was indeed one of the greatest movies ever made about the love of food and cooking. The only things that come close to it IMHO are Tampopo and maybe Eating Raoul. Sheesh. What’s a rat got to do to get a little respect around here?

(BTW, Thanks to AdFreak and SoundBite Back for mentioning CD along side the Fortune list.)

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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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O.J. Simpson named Worst Marketing Idea for 2nd Consecutive Year

Last year, you will recall, “The Juice” was at the center of Judith Regan’s down fall after she brilliantly decided to publish “I Did It,” his theoretical depiction of the murders that we’re sure he didn’t commit.

This year, Simpson is at the center of a marketing effort for “All-Pro Football 2K8,” from Take-Two Interactive Software the company behind “Grand Theft Auto” and “Manhunt 2.”

“All-Pro Football” features the likenesses of 240 retired National Football League players, including Simpson, whom game users can assign to fictional teams with preset names, one of which is “The Assassins.” As previewed on a Web site for video game promotional trailers, the team mascot is a hooded figure who makes stabbing motions with a large knife in the end zone when the Assassins score. Simpson does not have to be assigned to that team, but he was in a clip shown on the Game Trailers Web site.

Here’s the best part of the story, though:

Take-Two has declined to say how it obtained rights to Simpson’s name and likeness but said he was compensated. The company also has issued a statement saying the knife-wielding Assassins mascot is “not specifically associated with O.J. Simpson, and the game does not promote any such connection.”

Wow. Exactly what pharmaceuticals you have to be on to be able to write a statement like that? And when they wear off, how do you look yourself/wife/children in the eye? I’d rather work for a cigarette company.

The good news, such as there is, a judge has already ordered Simpson to cough up any cash he got from the deal. I wish he could issue a similar order against Take Two.