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10 Epic Marketing Fails

It is the goal of every brand to be in the spotlight. To garner the attention of its audience and ride that wave to success. In today’s blog post we will be looking back at 10 times that marketing teams grabbed the spotlight and rode the wave of attention in the wrong direction. Grab your favorite snack and drink then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Number 1 on our list: Pepsi


When Pepsi made the push into the Chinese market during their “Pepsi Generation” campaign, they had the slogan that “Pepsi brings you back to life”. This slogan when adopted for use in China was parsed by the residents to mean something like “Pepsi will reanimate your dead ancestors”. During this time Pepsi experienced a decline in sales.




The Takeaway: Always perform due diligence when moving into a new market. Cultural research is a must if you’re expanding into new geographic regions.

2. Tesco


Tesco is the 3rd largest retailer in the world. They hold over 28% of the market in England, making them a household name for groceries and household goods. At the Tesco store on Liverpool Street in London, during Ramadan in 2015 there was a display of Pringles Smokey Bacon Flavor chips that displayed the message “Ramadan Mubarak”.



The Takeaway: Product placement and messaging have to be in sync. Your brand can have products and messages that don’t align, and you need to know where and when to place your product.

3. Yellow Pages


Again in 2015 we find another big company with a marketing team that didn’t do their due diligence. Yellow Pages ran signs and posters about Bi Bim Bap, a rice dish, as part of a fun advertising campaign. As you can see in the picture, they placed the add with a bowl of noodles. Rice and noodles are not the same.




The Takeaway: This type of mistake is simple. You only needed to research one thing Yellow Pages!

4. Apple


Love them or hate them, Apple is a huge company. As a way to thank their consumers, Apple decided to “gift” them with a free U2 album. The problem was that not only did consumers not get a choice in the matter, they also had a hard time deleting the album from their devices.




The Takeaway: A/B testing is a must. If Apple had conducted A/B testing ahead of time, they would have learned that most of their consumers did not, in fact, want the new U2 album. Couple that with the fact that Apple consumers could not refuse the gift, and you end up with a nightmare.

5. Hoover


In 1992 Hoover launched a campaign in Great Britain that offered people a free ticket to the United States as long as they spent $100 or more. The issue there is that the tickets were more expensive that the purchased products. This great marketing idea cost Hoover a $50 million loss. It almost killed the company.




The Takeaway: If you’re going to run a promotion, be sure the costs are reasonable. Don’t give more than you can afford.

6. KFC


Much like our last contestant, KFC ran a special with the Oprah show that cost them over $40 million in losses. Oprah is a legend. If you’re going to give away product to a group that large, you better know ahead of time what the cost will be.




The Takeaway: Giveaways can be a great promotional tool, but you have to know what your costs are. If you don’t plan accordingly, you can cost yourself a lot of money and trouble.

7. EA (Electronic Arts)


As a part of a promotion for the launch of their game The Godfather II, EA sent gold brass knuckles in a wooden box out to media outlets. The problem is that these items are actually illegal in many states. EA eventually realized the error and contacted the recipients and had the products shipped back.



The Takeaway: If you want to send gifts for publicity, make sure they’re legal. In the end, this stunt cost EA money. Not to mention the game went on to be a commercial failure with only 400k copies sold.

8. LifeLock


LifeLock promised that they could make personal information like social security numbers, completely useless to criminals. To prove this, Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock put up billboards with his real social security number on them. In the end he had his identity stolen at least 13 times and his company has paid over $100 million in settlements, showing that his service did not live up to its guarantee.




The Takeaway: If you’re selling a service, make sure it’s a service you can provide. Also, promoting your social security number on a billboard is a great way to have your life tampered with.

9. Blackberry


Blackberry was getting ready to launch a new phone. They got excited. They tweeted about it. The problem: They tweeted from their iPhone…




The Takeaway: If you are going to publicize your product, maybe use your product to do it. Although this mistake is pretty harmless, it garnered a lot of attention and not in the right way.

10. Gap


In 2010 for unknown reasons, Gap, the household clothing brand, decided to change its logo. It was so poorly received that the new logo only lasted 2 days before being reverted back to the original design.




The Takeaway: Maybe check with your consumers before you rebrand yourself. A little research can save you a lot of headaches. Imagine spending thousands of dollars on meetings and discussions before making this change, just to have it fail so spectacularly.

I hope you enjoyed this look into marketing. When it works, it works wonders. When it fails, it fails in monumental fashion.

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