A good PR campaign can work wonders for a company - and also completely ruin it.
Beat The System.
“There is this department store in Brazil that had put in their TV ads ‘buy anything you want for the price you want’ and some guy decided to buy a bunch of expensive stuff and said he was willing to pay only $1. The store said he couldn’t and then he proceeded to sue the company and eventually won the lawsuit. They removed it from TV.” (Source)
Mountain Dew Should Have Known.
“The Mountain Dew promotion that let people on the internet come up with names for the new flavor and then allowed voting for the favorite. If I remember correctly the top submissions were ‘squirting granny’ and ‘Hitler did nothing wrong.’ Don’t trust people on the internet.” (Source)
“The best one I’ve seen: Godaddy put out a video of their CEO killing an elephant. He had proper license to hunt it, and the original video spun it like this badass thing. It started in the dark with text over the screen describing the situation. This elephant keeps trampling this village’s crops, so they were going to hunt it. It’s them waiting for it, then you hear it squeal/make elephant noises, some gunshots, fade to black. Then you hear ACDC ‘Hell’s Bells’, and it opens with an aerial daytime shot of third world villagers hacking into an elephant corpse with machetes, and all queued up to grab pieces of elephant meat, all wearing neon orange godaddy hats. For those of you who don’t know, godaddy is a web hosting company, so added irony of these third world villagers needing to hack into an elephant with a machete for meat wearing bright orange hats for a first world tech business. It was something that as I watched, though not giving a damn myself, I just found hysterically distasteful. Naturally it was a PR nightmare for them, and they scrambled to pull the video, then replace it with one that’s edited to have somber music, and just seem all around less obliviously distasteful.” (Source)
“In 1993, Pepsi ran a contest in the Philippines promising one million pesos ($40,000) to whoever found the number 349 on their bottle cap. But they accidentally made 800,000 winning caps. The mistake led to death threats against Pepsi executives and nationwide outrage.” (Source)
What A Great Idea.
“That Starbucks campaign where they made the baristas have conversations about race with their customers.” (Source)
The Hoover Company Needs To Think.
“Back in the 1990s, Hoover, the biggest vacuum cleaner company in the UK, made the biggest PR misstep I’ve ever seen. They had a load of old vacuums and washing machines that needed shifting; so rather than aggressively cut prices which could undermine the amount of money people would be willing to pay for such a product in the future, they went for a classic solution, a sales promotion. That was the right call. But what happened next was a complete clusterf*ck. The sales promotion was that if you spent more than £100 on a Hoover product, you would receive two FREE return airline tickets to any destination in Europe. A very generous deal; but given it would free up costly warehouse space and they could buy cheap airline tickets in bulk, they were confident that they could still make money. Wrong. The problem was that HUGE numbers of people went out and bought a Hoover product JUST because they wanted the airline tickets. The company quickly found itself totally overwhelmed by the demand both for tickets AND products, and they were now making a huge loss on every product sold. However, for a time, they didn’t realise this. As a result, the business decided to EXPAND the promotion to include new long-distance destinations like the USA. This double down decision is perhaps the worst double down decision in the history of marketing in the UK. By the time they realised what was actually happening, it was too late. The promotion has no real terms and conditions and so Hoover were unable to protect themselves; as long as the in-store promo messages remained, people expected to get the deal. The huge run on products and thus airline tickets totally swamped the company in administrative pain and financial disaster. In the end, the company were taken to court many many times for broken promises and unfulfilled claims. The courts ruled against them in every case, as the promotion clearly guaranteed tickets with purchase. The final result was an estimated loss of £50million, and the firing of a number of board directors. The ongoing damage to the company and the brand was so big, they were sold just a few years later at a cut-down price to an Italian company and the Hoover brand in Europe has never been the same since.” (Source)
Not A Good Idea.
“When the game Burnout 2 (3?) came out, the game was big about driving on the wrong side of the road, crashing and general law breaking. So they had a campaign where you could send in your speeding tickets, and they would pay them for you. Oh boy, did the police get annoyed at that one.” (Source)
“The Union Street Guest House (hotel) threatened to levy a $500 fine against customers who left a negative Yelp review. Then the internet found out. Hundreds of people proceeded to spam their Yelp page with negative reviews. They’re no longer in business.” (Source)
Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A.
“Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to do a Q&A session on Twitter involving James Neal, a skilled player with, well, let’s say that he’s not exactly known for fair play. He has a history of borderline and outright dirty play, including cross-checking opponents in the face, elbowing them in the head and also an incident of kneeing an opponent in the head. Sample questions from various hockey fans: James, do you get the biggest thrill out of kneeing someone in the head or cross checking them in the head? Do you make rocket noises when you launch yourself at peoples’ heads? If not, why? Do you think before cross-checking people in the head or is it just pure instinct? If you opened a bar how cheap would your shots be? What part of the stick should I be holding to really lay a good cross check to someone’s head? If a tree falls down in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does James Neal still cross check it in the face? What favorite memory have you robbed from one of the players you kneed to the head? A train leaves NYC traveling at 97 mph, another train leaves LA traveling at 76 mph, when do you headshot the child riding coach? If you could go back in time and play with any player in history, which one would you knee in the face? If you were holding a baby and dropped it on its head, would it already be unconscious from your previous elbow to the head? James, my roommate stole my food. Should I lunge at his head, elbow him in the temple or drive my knee into his skull? When you go into a corner and there are 3 people, and you only have 2 elbows, how do you decide which one gets kneed?” (Source)
Not A Ticket.
“A Philadelphia Pretzel shop opened up in our neighborhood and thought it would be funny to hand out marketing/advertisement papers that looked like Philly parking tickets on one side. So the neighborhood woke up to find their cars littered with tickets and everyone had a meltdown of rage. People stormed over to their car ripping the ticket out of their windshield, only to find it was a joke. The other side was an advert to the new pretzel shop. Man, did that shop get it. Calls, threats, screams, you name it. I don’t know how they stayed in business, but it was a rocky start. And for anyone not familiar with the region, the area this happened in has overly crowded street parking, so people are already SUPER stressed out about parking cars, too limited parking places, etc. Targeting the parking situation was a bad, bad move. Any other joke would have been fun, this nearly incited murders.” (Source)
“Nestea had a promotion 5 years back where in every 12 pack they had a coupon for a free 12 pack. As soon as the kids in my town caught wind of it they brought as many cars as possible and just bought 6 cases, dumped them in their car, took the coupons, got 6 more cases, and so on. Nestea is my favorite drink of all time so as soon as I heard about it (maybe 4 hours in) I checked every major store and they were clean out. I eventually found a bunch of diet Nesteas in a random stores and still made a decent haul. People got creative with the literally hundreds of cans of Nestea, I built a throne. Still can’t believe this s–t acutally happens.” (Source)
R Kelly Q&A.
“Registered Sex Offenders doing Twitter Q&As The R Kelly one gave us this chestnut: ‘On a scale of blue ivy to willow smith what’s the oldest female you would date?'”(Source)
Can’t Join Server.
“The launch of SimCity (the recent remake). So they decided on some horrible combination of DRM and online-only play. Cut to launch day when the servers were jam-packed and everyone was getting ‘lol you can’t join the server’ messages, but couldn’t even play the game as a sandbox because it had to be online-only at the time, if they could even get on to get past the DRM. EA eventually got it under control, but only after a lot of people abandoned the game, and eventually they had to put in a sandbox mode so people could play the damn game without being tethered all the time. And again, it’s SimCity, not World of Warcraft. Their dreams of some MMORPG-style version of the game were wildly afar from what most people (that I know of) wanted from the game.” (Source)
Jewelry = Sandwich.
“Gerald Ratner. It’s a well known story, but I’ll tell it for those who haven’t heard it before. He owned a chain of mass-market jewelers in the UK, and in 1991 got up on stage in front of a crowd of other businessmen and said: ‘We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, How can you sell this for such a low price? I say, because it’s total crap.’ He then said that earrings the company were selling were as cheap as a prawn sandwich but that the sandwich would probably last longer. It should be said for context that the chain wasn’t exactly renowned for quality, people knew that what they were buying wasn’t particularly good quality, but Ratner almost appeared to mock his own customers. Customers then ditched the chain en-masse, losing Ratner millions of pounds, and the business almost collapsed. It survives to this day as H Samuel and Ernest Jones.” (Source)