Epic fails. Everyone loves reading epic fails (as long as the failure was not theirs). Perhaps it is partly due to the amusement factor and partly because it makes us feel better about our work that we would never fail so spectacularly.
So, every Friday on the Good Business Consulting Facebook page, we share with you epic (and sometimes funny) PR and marketing fails.
Missed out? No worries. We have compiled a list of some of the top fails for you here. Be sure to ‘like’ the Facebook page so you don’t miss out on new ones.
The Greatest Mess on Earth
Did you hear about the time Snapple almost flooded Union Square in New York with a giant popsicle (ice block for us Aussies)? In 2005 Snapple created a PR stunt to promote the launch of Snapple on Ice with a Guinness Book of Records attempt for the World’s Largest Popsicle. The only problem was it as noon in summer… The result, was an entry for The Greatest Mess on Earth. The fire brigade and police had to shut down streets as the sticky pink liquid melted and flowed in to streets.
The PR lesson: Common sense and practice are key to pulling off public PR stunts!
Customer deaths are not a positive marketing angle
Back in 2001 Philip Morris in the Czech Republic distributed an economic analysis concluding that cigarette consumption isn’t a drag on the country’s budget, in part because smokers’ early deaths help offset medical expenses, public housing, etc.
The company, of course, faced a huge public backlash as a result of the release, which was intended to create positive PR for an already-struggling industry.
The PR lesson: Never attempt to position early death as a positive outcome!
One of the greatest PR fails comes from Gerald Ratner who was CEO of British jewellers Ratners in the 1990s. While speaking at an event a member of the audience asked how his company was able to sell things so cheaply. His answer? “People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”
Ratner said this as a joke but journalists were in attendance and this statement wiped £500m off the value of the company and caused it to nearly fold. Now known as “the speech,” it has since gone down as one of the biggest blunders in business history.
The PR lesson: Avoid saying things about your organisation that can be misinterpreted – particularly in front of journalists!
Everyone is a winner?
In 1992 Pepsi ran a contest in the Philippines that would give a lucky winner $1 million. It was based on the number on the bottle cap and the winner would be announced. There was a glitch and the number they announced was not a unique number, in fact, there were 800,000 caps that had that number! Pepsi retracted the winning number and a riot ensued to the point where they withdrew all but two of their non-Filipino employees because of the number of death threats. Two people died when a Pepsi delivery truck was firebombed.
The PR lesson: Ensure the execution of your campaign is correct and manage disappointment thoughtfully.
Don’t worry, there’s more where these came from. Check out the Good Business Consulting Facebook page for more stories of PR and marketing fails.