So we’ve shown you a few marketing stunts go wrong and PR disasters that made the Australian public cringe (and caused a few people in high places to apologise for insensitive, offensive or plain embarrassing actions), but the following campaigns go beyond the mere title of ‘failure’ to have become downright nightmares for the brands involved!
Here are 3 of the worst outcomes for marketing stunts we could find. If you know of other brand nightmares please let us know in the comments below!
1. Jagermeister Pool Party Poisons Party Goers
German liquor brand Jagermeister decided to hold a pool party in Leon, Mexico, to promote the alcoholic beverage, but party organisers didn’t think things through when they added liquid nitrogen to the pool in an effort to create a cool mist over the water.
What they didn’t realise was that when liquid nitrogen mixes with chlorine (which is typically found in most swimming pools), it creates a toxic gas which ended up poisoning their guests, causing many to start choking and coughing, a few passing out with one 21 year old attendee ending up in a coma for 18 days!
The company was quick to respond and released a statement saying they were working with authorities and event organisers to determine what happened.
The lesson here is to do your research and ensure you have competent people running the show!
2. Pepsi Causes Riots Across the Philippines
In 1992 Pepsi wanted to boost sales in foreign markets and devised “The Number Fever” competition to give away million peso prizes (1 million pesos = about $40,000). There were three digit numbers under Pepsi lids and the cash prizes, as well as a number of second chance prizes were to be announced at the end of the competition. It was initially a huge success with about half the population of the Philippines drinking Pepsi with every meal and collecting the lids with dreams of riches.
What could go wrong?
Certain numbers were selected not to be winners, such as the number 349 which was printed on over 800,000 caps. But when the computer selected the winning number it pulled out the common 349. Pepsi refused to pay the billions of dollars they technically owed contestants, claiming that the winner’s caps had the wrong security code.
It all went downhill from here with rioters boycotting Pepsi, throwing bombs and Molotov cocktails at bottling plants, setting fire to trucks and causing some pretty poor publicity for the company. In the end Pepsi was slammed with thousands of lawsuits costing them over $10,000 in restitution and legal fees.
3. Fiat’s Spanish Stalker Letters
Another 1992 blunder saw Fiat creep out a nation. They thought it would be a great idea to send cute, anonymous love letters that would later be revealed to be from their new Cinquento hatchback. No one saw a problem with this so they sent out 50,000 love letters to women in Spain.
The letters were unsigned, contained no branding and included creepy phrases like “We met again on the street yesterday and I noticed how you glanced interestedly in my direction” and asked the confused recipients to join them on a “little adventure.”
Women freaked out!
Many of the recipients were scared that someone they passed in the street new their address. They were too frightened to leave their homes in the belief they’d be attacked by some obsessed stalker. It even caused fights and jealousy between some couples.
Fiat had to pull the campaign after social advocates and consumer protection groups condemned their “cute” little marketing ploy.
If you know of any disastrous marketing fails please let us know in the comments below. We’d be happy to add them to a marketing disaster follow-up article.