The 10 Biggest Marketing Blunders of 2010

This year it was a race for 2nd place because the top honors were nailed down before the rest of contestants were even out of the starting gate.

1) BP & Tony Hayward

Under the astute guidance of now former-CEO Tony “I want my life back” Hayward, BP proved time and time again why it so wisely decided to can its positioning as the environmentally friendly oil company. Here’s just a few of Tony’s finer moments:

  1. Creates one of the quotes of the year by saying, “I want my life back.”
  2. In testimony before Congress he makes a point to remind us all that, “We care about the little people.”
  3. At the height of the spill he takes a weekend off to go watch yacht races at the Isle of Wright in England.
  4. In a slick video ad he takes pride in the fact that BP has “organized the largest environmental response in this country’s history.”
  5. His parting words on stepping down as CEO: “Safety, people and performance have been my watchwords. We’ve made significant progress.”

But Tony didn’t win this award all on his own. No he had help from literally thousands of BP execs like BP spokesman Randy Prescott: who said, “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.” While space prevents from listing all the asinine things the company did, here are a few of the lowlights:

  1. Decided to pay out $10 billion in dividends to stockholders while failing to pay people hired to clean up its mess.
  2. Employed the engineer who wrote in an email about the decision not to install all the safety devices on the Deepwater Horizon, “Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.” The email was sent on April 16th – Four days before explosion that killed 11 people.
  3. “BP is going to [spin] off its Gulf of Mexico spill operation to a separate in-house business to be run by an American in a bid to isolate the “toxic” side of the company and dilute some of the anti-British feeling aimed at chief executive Tony Hayward, the company said today.” Because it’s all about protecting Tony, that’s why.
  4. Continuing to spend millions of dollars on ads promising to fix the damage its done and emphasizing how much effort it is putting into stopping the catastrophe it created.
  5. Put together an internal report on the disaster so vapid that the best defense BP’s safety honcho Mark Bly could offer was, “It wasn’t intended to be anything it isn’t.”
  6. Lying about the amount of oil being spilled in order to limit liability.
  7. Blocking the press access to the scene of the crime by banning flyovers and keeping reporters from beaches where the oil might be seen.

Of course these last two would not have been achievable without the aid and support of the US government. Reporters calling The Coast Guard about their inability to go look at the ocean were (and maybe still are) ROUTINELY referred to the BP press office. So BP gets to enforce the 1st Amendment. Ahh, the watch/lap dogs of government.

Dishonorable mention for its actions also go to: Rep. Joe Barton and The House Conservative Caucus for apologizing to BP. They called the President’s pallid pursuit of the company a “Chicago-Style Political Shakedown.”

2) Christine O’Donnell

In The Great Book Of Political Campaigns the first rule is “Never Have To Deny That You Are A Witch”. Coming up with the other best quote of the year (“I am not a witch.” Like you needed to be reminded) was but one in a cascade of highlights for Delaware’s GOP candidate for Senate. She also thought that an ad pointing out she had never been to Yale would be a good thing. Instead it merely highlighted the fact that she hadn’t actually graduated from college at all – despite her claims to the contrary. But, in the silver lining department, all the hoopla around her claims did get her to finally finish up the work on the degree she had begun working for 17 years earlier. Two weeks before election day she was awarded a BA in English from Fairleigh Dickson University. Despite having a degree in English it turned out that reading was not her strong suit shown when when she claimed that the separation of Church and State was not, in fact, a part of the constitution.

Not content to go quietly into the good night, O’Donnell returned to the public stage earlier this month, telling a gathering, “Tragedy comes in threes. Pearl Harbor, Elizabeth Edwards’s passing and Barack Obama’s announcement of extending the tax cuts, which is good, but also extending the unemployment benefits.” Tragedy may come in threes, but in this instance stupidity is singular.

3) TIE: Sharron Angle/Alex Sink/Libby Mitchell

  • Sharron Angle should have easily won the Nevada Senate seat. In a year when not being a Democrat was pretty much all you needed to win, she was running against Harry Reid – a man about as popular as Bernie Madoff. She managed to lose because of a campaign that rivaled Ms. O’Donnell’s for egregious stupidity. Of many great moments in her run for office my favorite was when she told the Rancho High School Hispanic Student Union, “You know, I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that.” To make it clear just how hard it can be to tell who is Latino and who is Asian and who is white, Angle added, “I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.”
  • Alex Sink, the Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, lost to Rick Scott — a man with no political experience who ran a company involved in the biggest medicare fraud case in American history.
  • Libby Mitchell, Democratic nominee for governor of Maine, came in third and lost to Republican Paul LePage – a creationist. While neither Sink nor Mitchell’s campaigns were as spectacular a flop as Angle’s, the results speak for themselves.

4) Summer’s Eve says, Want a raise? Wash your vagina.”

The literal and metaphorical douchebags at Fleet Labs ran a full page ad in Women’s Day that opened with the headline, “Confidence at Work: How to Ask for a Raise.” It then listed eight steps to getting more money out of the boss. Number 1? “Start with the usual routine and all things you do to feel your best, including showering with Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash or throwing a packet of Summer’s Eve Feminine Cleansing cloths into your bag for a quick freshness pick-me-up during the day.”

5) Montblanc regrets “honoring” Gandhi with $24K fountain pen

Either Montblanc’s execs have a brilliant sense of irony or they’re complete idiots. I’ll report, you decide. Whichever is the case, they have “unconditionally apologized” to an Indian court about it – at least until the court rules on whether the company can continue to sell the pen. The pen was marketed as a way of honoring 140th birthday of the brilliant spokesman for the poor.What, you may ask, justifies the $24,000 cost of this ink delivery system?

The gold and silver limited edition pen includes an engraving of Gandhi and comes with an eight-meter golden thread that can be wound around the pen, representing the spindle and cotton Gandhi used to weave simple cloth.

Montblanc made only 241 of the handmade pens, one for each mile Gandhi walked in his famous march against salt taxes in 1930. It should be noted that the company did think of the needs of the less affluent consumer when producing this pen. They are also offering ballpoint and rollerball versions for a mere $3000 per.

6) Drake University boasts about being a D+ school

clip_image001Let’s pretend you are an institution of higher learning. Let’s say the name of your institution starts with the letter D. Now you want something special for your marketing, something that talks about the special magic that occurs when a student comes to your university. So what do you call it? Anything BUT “D+.” Well, unless you’re Drake University. Much to the school’s surprise, some have taken the now-dead recruitment campaign amiss. Go figure. Maybe they needed a better slogan. How about, “Drake, the ultimate safety school.” I sure hope the faculty are smarter than the admissions office. The only thing dumber than the campaign is the school’s effort to explain it away.

In hindsight, introducing the concept and the testing that was conducted with the target audience may have minimized some of the concerns that have been expressed, and we are very sorry that many of you were caught by surprise as a result.

They used 42 words to say “Mistakes were made.”

“Our experience in the survey and in the field suggests that the kind of students whom we want to attract to Drake easily understand and appreciate the irony of the D+.”

Ahhh, irony the last excuse of the incompetent. Or, as Calvin Trillin once said, “I never did very well in math – I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn’t meant my answers literally.”

7) Medal of Honor video game shoots itself in the foot

Simple marketing rule: Don’t include a feature in your product that directly contradicts the name of your product. Case in point: The Medal of Honor video game from EA games. In this first person shooter, players get to pretend they are soldiers. I assume it lets you pretend you are a US soldier since those are the only people who can actually win a Congressional Medal of Honor. The latest version of the game — coming out next month — includes a feature where you can play as a member of the Taliban … and thereby shoot US soldiers. Here’s the brand disconnect: Shooting US soldiers is definitely NOT going to let you get a Medal of Honor.

Surprisingly, many people and organizations were upset by this. A lot of those people are the families of soldiers who have been killed in the war. Who could have seen that coming? Also upset is the commander of the US Army and Air Force Exchange Service (that’s the group that runs the stores on military bases), who has decided that they won’t sell the game. That will hurt because, as Sgt. Big Brother CollateralDamage can attest, military folk LOVE games like this. It will also hurt because it will make Walmart and co. think twice about stocking the game. Congrats, guys, on a blunder that could have easily been avoided.

8) Sperm Logo Sneakers

I can’t top what Rebecca Cullers wrote over at AdFreak:

sperm sneakerDo you wake up in the morning wishing you could wear shoes with a picture of a sperm prominently displayed on them? Well, now, with Gravity Defyer sneakers, you can! The Web site refers to the sperm logo as the ‘Slick Seed of Life Logo,’ and says it’s there ‘because it’s cool!’ As you can see from the full-page advertisement … wearing these shoes is like pouring an energy drink on your feet. At least, I’m assuming the can (also covered in sperm pictures) that’s splashing liquid on the shoe is supposed to be an energy drink. In a press release, company officials explain how, despite a couple of retail partners who’ve pulled out due to the logo, they intend to keep it: “Our logo is deliberate. … There’s no shame, there’s pride,” they write. In my mind, there’s a big gap between not being embarrassed by sperm and wanting to have it all over my shoes.”

9) Video game lets players bomb illegal immigrants.

Spain’s conservative Popular Party launched the video game, Rescue, on its website as part of the party’s campaign for regional elections in Catalonia.

In the game, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho – the president of the PP branch in Catalonia – is depicted riding a white seagull called Pepe. She is dubbed Alicia Croft, in a reference to Lara Croft, the heroine of the popular video game Tomb Raider. Points are awarded to players when they direct the bird to bomb aircraft containing illegal immigrants or symbols of Catalan nationalism.

The game was taken down within hours and the party of course found someone else to blame for it. In this case, it was the developer who allegedly failed to follow directions. Instead of bombing the immigrants, the PP  claimed, the seagull should have targeted the organized crime groups that traffic them.

Hey, who hasn’t made that mistake?

10) Magazine industry spends millions preaching to the choir

On a list of industries with too much money the leader would clearly be banking followed probably by oil. What about magazine publishing? While it is certainly ahead of typewriters (repair & manufacture of), I don’t think it would crack the top 1000. Despite this, the industry has collectively decided it is time to waste some of this precious resource. Thus the just-announced multimillion-dollar ad campaign touting the “power of print.”

The campaign, funded by five leading publishers, seeks to convince people that “magazines remain an effective advertising medium in the age of the Internet because of the depth and lasting quality of print, compared with the ephemeral nature of much of the Web’s content.”

And how are they going to get this message across? “Nearly 1,400 pages of the ads will be sprinkled through magazines including People, Vogue and Ladies’ Home Journal this year.”

Let me get this right – you’re going to tell magazine readers that reading magazines is a good thing? Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure they already know. Aren’t the people you want to reach the ones who aren’t trying to discern the difference between the ads and the articles in GQ?

SPECIAL BONUS: BEST UNINTENTIONAL MARKETING MISTAKE OF THE YEAR


Japan launches anime series with fetishized school girls explaining the management theories of Peter Drucker

MoshidoraThe series is an animated adaptation of Natsumi Iwasaki‘s business novel Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drucker no Management o Yondara which translates into "If A Female High School Baseball Team Manager Read Drucker’s ‘Management’…" The original book has sold 1.3 MILLION copies in J-land. The novel is about

a high school girl named Minami Kawashima who becomes the baseball team manager at Tokyo’s Hodokubo High School. Minami accidentally buys Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices — a classic productivity guide by the Austrian-American management guru Peter Drucker — and uses it to rally her dispirited team.

<<Slaps self in head>>Why didn’t I think of writing that?

Because that title is a bit long, the anime will be known as Moshi-dora [もしドラ]. Moshi-Dora is such a phenomenon that its title is #32 on a list of the year’s Top 60 Japanese words and phrases. (In case you were wondering, #1 is “~zeyo!: One symptom of this year’s widespread Ryōma Sakamoto fever is the tendency to emulate the 19th-century samurai’s Tosa dialect by finishing sentences with an emphatic ~zeyo!” I want to live in a nation that gets this obsessed with an 18th century revolutionary. Anyone care to join me in creating a pop-culture movement about Garibaldi? Don’t all hold your hands up at once, now.) Here’s a link to the official website which Google offered to translate and, when I clicked yes, rendered the page in Kanji.

Below is the promotional video. My ignorance of the Japanese language didn’t impair my enjoyment at all.

 

I’m going right out and buying the animation rights for Who Moved My Cheese and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I’ll be damned if this isn’t the weirdest thing to come out of Japan since Calamari Wrestler.

Goldman Sachs best marketing move would be to shut up

Some hugely successful companies are never going to be loved or even liked. Top of that list: Oil companies and banks. The smart move would be to take their billions in profits and be happy with that. For some reason, though, that’s not enough.

Thus we get

Goldman Sachs is considering a corporate branding campaign in a bid to improve its battered reputation, and has even discussed placing Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein on the “The Oprah Show.”

The oil industry tried something similar a few years ago. Here’s what I wrote then and it stands up: The oil industry should just give a gag order to itself. Yes, they are making a helluva a lot of money — the biggest challenge they face is choosing between "obscene" and "pornographic" when describing their profits. They feel compelled to defend their earnings because … well, I don’t know why. Because some PR person said they have to? The only explanation that anyone would believe — "Because we can" — is apparently not an acceptable sound bite.

The oil companies’ profits don’t depend on the public’s goodwill. They make the overwhelming majority of their money on wholesale, not retail. For them it’s all about price and reliability. As BP has proven all you really have to do is keep your head down and your environmental disasters in Africa or other places the major media don’t cover.

True, Goldman et al. do depend slightly on public goodwill. The fact that they’re being investigated by everyone except the commissioner of baseball has made some public groups suspend their relations with Goldman. But a PR campaign about what alleged good Goldman does is exactly the wrong move. All it will do is keep the issues alive in the public eye. The public isn’t going to believe a damn thing Goldman says anyway. I mean I don’t even believe their justification for the campaign:

Fiona Laffan, Goldman Sach’s head of media relations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, told a communications industry event here that mistrust and hatred of bankers, not just those at Goldman Sachs, remained near an all-time high and that the bank, as an industry leader, needed to do a better job of explaining what it did and how.

Please. We all know what you do and how and we were all in favor of it until you nearly cost us the economy. You’re just scared about how we’ll respond if someone can prove you were betting on the failure of companies you were giving financial advice to. Look, just sit still and shut up and we’ll forget all about it. The US public has the attention span of a mayfly on crystal meth. Just wait and let BP’s decision to roast turtles work in your favor.

When branding goes too far: car crashes into car-themed diner

A Mercedes and a Honda collided outside Hubcaps Diner at the corner of Bonanza and Locust streets in downtown Walnut Creek, CA. The collision sent the Honda onto the sidewalk and through the glass doors of the popular breakfast spot, which is decorated with framed photographs of classic automobiles.

Via The Obscure Store & Reading Room

And speaking of car crashes, I was ecstatic to see The Treasury Department said NO! to GM’s request for up to $10 billion to finance its merger with Chrysler. They wanted you and me to pay for this idiot idea? If they can’t even afford to do the merger why do it in the first place? There is nothing about that merger that makes any sense. There will be no economies of scale — GM is already too big. It will bring nothing to the marketplace — GM is already suffering from having way too many brands that stand for absolutely nothing. I wouldn’t trust the top management of either firm to run a lemonade stand. I’d consider funding it only if they fired everyone at the top of both firms.

Hello Kitty is 2nd marketing logo to be named ambassador by Japan

Japan has named Kitty an official tourism ambassador today. This follows the appointment last March of Doreamon to be the nation’s anime ambassador. While the press and public have been fooled into thinking these are benign actions, there is in fact a strong militaristic bent to both figures that should not be ignored. Both are frequently seen carrying weapons. I believe this is in fact Japan’s latest attempt at global domination.

I know first-hand the tourist power of the Kitty. It was the lure of the Sanrio Puroland theme park in Tokyo that got Mrs. CollateralDamage to convince us to go to Japan for a vacation (no complaints about this from me, btw). I am hoping that the siren call of Sanrio Harmonyland gets us back there for another visit.

If not she will have to make do with the multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty that opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. “Hello Kitty’s Dream Light Fantasy” is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run. And there’s also the fact that, “according to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London, which we will be visiting later this year.

Odd brand placement: Spongebob Squarepants Rectal Thermometer

Best part: “Plays SpongeBob SquarePants Theme at the end of temperature taking.” Yeah, that’s gonna make the kid happier.

For reasons I won’t even pretend to understand the most consistently viewed page here at the Damage is: Headline of the day: SpongeBob Squarepants Digital Camera Is Neither Square-Shaped Nor Made Of Sponges. Its 2188 views make it the 4th most viewed page after my 2006 and 2007 annual lists of the Top marketing blunders and the gallery of grenade-shaped products that was linked to from DarkRoastedBlend. But that SpongeBob headline is like money in the bank. EVERY WEEK it is either the first or second most visited post. So I’m hoping that the Square one can do some more magic here.

Five things I DON’T want to find under the Christmas tree

mitten1) The Smoking Mitten: This innovative design from Tobias Wong utilises a metal ringlet perfectly placed and sized to hold your cigarette in the optimum smoking position.2) Designer Ice Cubes: “It’s ice is supposedly of such a high quality, that it comes in a resealable bag, to keep it fresh and pure in your freezer.
cross

3) Wooden Cross USB Memory Strap: What would Jesus store? I don’t know but apparently He can only hold 2GB of info. So much for being infinite.

4) CrustaStun: This allegedly more humane way to kill crustaceans lets you put the shelled creature into a shallow bath of brine, close the lid and then VOILA! the critters get an electric current that promises “to produce an instant anesthesia and eventually death.” [Note to self: Insert joke about adoption by the state of Texas here.]

crayon

5) A Crayon-branded beverage: I hope they taste better as a liquid than they did when I ate them as a kid.

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