8 Notable Marketing Blunders of 2008

by Kate Brodock on 31 December 2008

Posted in: From the Field

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These are in no particular order, but some of my favorites during the year.  Some them include profiters of the blunders.

  1. Laughable Competitor: Microsoft‘s attempt at funny-ness in response to Apple’s actual funny-ness Apple vs PC commercials are humorous.  They got laughs, they got eyes, and they did the trick.  Microsoft’s response?  Let’s try and out-funny them!  Jerry Seinfeld!  Result?  Fail.  Not funny, regardless of Seinfeld, as many critics will tell you.

    Bill Gates may be brilliant perhaps, but he’s much of the unfunny-ness of this series.
  2. Poor Management Choice: McCain campaign, Palin and all I’m going to credit this explanation to the Collateral Damage Blog post (which includes more marketing blunders you might enjoy).
    • “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).

    My own additions would be Joe the Plumber, who ended up telling the nation post-campaign how much he hated the whole thing (in not so pleasant of words), and of course the campaigns complete oversight on not having a competitive new media strategy. I’m biased, but that was just dumb.

  3. Poor Customer Service: Nike and Arien O’Connell
    When Arien O’Connell had the fastest time in the San Francisco Marathon in October, Nike only

    Arien OConnell, decidely unhappy with Nike

    clocked in the elite times (O’Connell was a regular woman who was “just doing it”).  Even after they realized what had happened, they didn’t grant her first place.  It was only after competitor Reebok

    stepped up to “console” O’Connell that Nike changed its tune.  Nike doesn’t seem to understand how this works nowadays, does it?

  4. Executive/Consumer Gap: GM Execs Fly to Washington to get federal bailout money
    I don’t think this requires too much explanation.  You’re in dire financial straights.  You’re going to ask someone for “help.”  If you’re a good marketer, you might put on some grubbier clothes, enter with slightly disheveled hair and a week-old beard while eating a 99¢ Whopper to make your story a little better.  But instead, you throw on your $2000 suit, have your make-up people make you look fantastic, stroll in fifteen minutes late and sit down while checking your Rolex.

    UPDATE: Perfect timing GM!  You didn’t let me down on this one.  GM ticks off consumers by spending half a million dollars thanking them for their bailout.

  5. Scent Marketing: Burger King goes a little overboard
    Burger King
    ‘s “Flame” cologne, which smells like a flame broiled burger, is a toss up in terms of whether it’s really a blunder or not.  It’s gross, absolutely.  And if I ever smelled someone with it on, I would likely get sick.

    However, it’s apparently sold out and it certainly got Burger King some love.  I might at the very least question their brainstorming sessions.  My guess is that this sort of thing can only happen once (Dragon Garden Chinese , do not do this at home please).

    Profiters: Anyone selling this on eBay, some as high as $50, since the stuff cost $3.99 from the Burger King Website.

  6. Brand Departure: Levi’s “Unbutton Your Beast” Campaign Levi‘s history is rich with good ‘ole American roots.  A story of pioneering new land, helping the little people, and revolutionizing the way people felt in a piece of clothing (for those who don’t know the Levi’s story, please see here or here).You can imagine my disgust surprise at the following ad.  I don’t even know who they were targetting (since it seems morally wrong to be marketing to anyone who might find this appealing, namely teenage boys).
  7. Freaking Out: Mommy Bloggers
    No, I don’t mean Motrin.  I mean the mommy bloggers.  I refrained from commenting on this when it occurred (though will likely have a post on it sometime next month), but I found this excessive response on the part of mommy bloggers to be a move in the wrong direction for social media.

    It made me question where the line would be drawn between increased ability to respond and converse with brands, and just plain (very costly and detrimental) over exaggeration.  I really felt that Motrin got the lousy end of the stick here.  While companies need to respect their consumers much more, consumers should really think about the full extent of their actions as well.  BOTH parties should be thinking unselfishly.

    Profitor:
    Ford Truck

    Did anyone notice that about 2 day after the Motrin viral video came out (which I personally thought was very well done, most notably in terms of how you followed the words throughout the ad, it really kept you locked in), they came out with this commercial?  Way to use something that “messed up”  and had to be pulled to your advantage.

  8. Personal Branding: Plaxico Burress – ‘nuf said
    Profiter: LandLine TV.  This is just hilarious.
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  • http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com marguerite manteau-rao

    I would add the Facebook/ breastfeeding pictures takedown controversy:

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/he

  • http://www.othersidegroup.com/adcomments Kate Brodock

    Great addition Marguerite! That was a dousy, and we're still hearing about it.

  • http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com marguerite manteau-rao

    I would add the Facebook/ breastfeeding pictures takedown controversy:

    http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/he

  • http://www.katebrodock.com Kate Brodock

    Great addition Marguerite! That was a dousy, and we're still hearing about it.

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  • http://funnybabyclothes.info Funny Baby Clothes

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  • http://funnybabyclothes.info Funny Baby Clothes

    Good post. Have bookmarked your blog and will surely come back.

  • http://www.breastpumpdeals.com Ameda

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  • http://www.breastpumpdeals.com Ameda

    I have been a regular visitor, great to see this post, you are doing a great work, keep going, thanks.

  • http://www.othersidegroup.com/adcomments Kate Brodock

    Glad you've found it valuable!

  • Kate

    Thank you Ameda! I’m glad it’s of value to you.

  • http://www.katebrodock.com Kate Brodock

    Glad you've found it valuable!

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    Great list.. I really like this site.. thanks for posting.. Very informative..

  • http://www.yourdictionary.com/community/forums/member/25193/ Max

    Nice article Marguerite. I am really impressed & bookmaked it.

  • http://www.rebornbabiesuk.com Reborn Dolls

    Cool! Here are my three favourite marketing blunders….!

    1. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

    2. Coors put its slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish where its translation was read as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”

    3. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “manure stick.”

    So funny lol!

  • http://twitter.com/jeanniecw Jeannie Walters

    Aaron – Thanks so much for the great conversation! It was a lot of fun.

  • http://twitter.com/apearson Aaron Pearson

    No problem and thank you too, Jeannie, it was really interesting and I enjoyed it.

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