Some Of The Greatest Marketing Disasters In History

7 min read

Marketers make mistakes, as we are all human beings and we operate in a globalized, unpredictable world. Sometimes marketing specialist put companies in uncomfortable, public shaming situation. Some brands end up losing millions of dollars. The unlucky ones go bankrupt.

Companies are under immense pressure to increase market share, expand to new markets, develop a new product, create a viral marketing campaign and etc. To persuade those goals brands from electronics to sweet producers fail miserably trying to keep up with target goals.

We created a list of biggest marketing mistakes of all time. The list includes big corporations like Apple, Pepsi, and Sony as well as Ayds sweet that you probably have never heard of and many others you can learn from!


Even the most genius marketing strategy won’t save a bad product from sinking.

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one.” — Henry Ford.

AIDS for a weight loss

Sometimes brands are unlucky! One day, fate played a trick on the manufacturer of diet bars Ayds, dulling the taste with an anesthetic, so that people eat less. This trademark was registered back in the mid-1940s; in the 1970s and early 1980s sweets were said to have been briskly sold out — and then the doctors discovered a mysterious deadly disease, the name of which was in the acronym AIDS. Advertising slogans immediately turned into a gimmick: “AIDS helps to lose weight and stay in shape,” “Lose weight with taste thanks to AIDS!”. By the end of 1988, sales had fallen by almost 40%, and the new owners of the brand from the company Dep decided to change the name. Head of Dep said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: Sometimes finding a solution is not so difficult” — and renamed the bars in Diet Ayds. It’s not a surprise that Diet Ayds went bankrupt.

Zara’s Pajama

In 2014 the Spanish retailer Zara kids’ collection faced huge criticism from social media users. Consumers felt that striped clothing with a yellow star on the chest is very similar to the nazi’s prisoners’ clothes at concentration camps. German Nazi required Jews and other prisoners to wear very similar striped costumes. To calm the critical situation, representatives from Zara explained that they were inspired by the stars of the sheriffs from the Wild West, but the model disappeared from the stores and from the official website of the company.

New Coke or Coke II

In 1985 Coca-Cola fell from a rock. Nobody so far succeeded in disturbing buyers as Coke did. That spring, the manufacturer changed the recipe for Coke. Coca-Cola was at a critical moment: its market share has been slowly declining for 15 years, and the war with its main competitor PepsiCo broke out even in space.They decided to keep the taste the same — just the coke became even sweeter. On blind tastings experiment researches, consumers preferred a new recipe, but the start of sales turned into a catastrophe. Angry fans broke off the hotline, filled up letters, came to the offices of Coca-Cola and blamed familiar employees as if the recipe was their idea. After 79 days, the company announced that it would release a “classic” cola. The problem was so immense that Coca-Cola had to launch an emergency news release on national television.By the end of the year, sales of the “old” Coca-Cola took off. However, the new formula remained on the market. They changed the name to Coke II, and after another 10 years, they finally stopped pouring. After this story, Coca-Cola executives realized that taste is not the main thing — the magic of the brand is more important.

Promotional strategies mistakes happen to be the most common. Before it was enough to consider preferences and buying behavior only of your local market. With the growth of the internet, it became tough to not touch some sensitive topics like racism.

“Good products can be sold by honest advertising. If you don’t think the product is good, you have no business to be advertising it.” — David Ogilvy.

While some companies are looking for fresh ideas, others are using the verified method — they give away the free stuff. Some brands fail to calculate their generosity in advance.

Giving away free goods or money can drastically increase your sales. Well, you also can mess up the whole company’s reputation. 3 big brands failed by following the same mistake: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and

Dr. Pepper.Dr. Pepper in Honor of Guns N ‘Roses

In March 2008, the soda maker Dr. Pepper Snapple promised every American a free drink jar if Guns N ‘Roses rock band released the album Chinese Democracy before the end of the year. By that time the musicians were preparing new songs for 14 years. However, the record was released on November 23, and Dr. Pepper had to keep their word. The company launched a site with coupons for one day, but the servers could not stand the load. Soon Guns N ‘Roses’ lawyers demanded public apologies for the “complete fiasco” in which the name of the group was messed up. To this, Dr. Pepper has explained that the musicians’ managers themselves offered the idea with free soda.

The similar Situation Happened to Pepsi-Cola

Pepsi-Cola (Currently PepsiCo) in attempt to restore its position in Southeast Asia, where 75% of the market belonged to Coca-Cola, the management of Pepsi-Cola Philippine Inc. came up with a brilliant marketing plan called The Number Fever. The idea was simple: under the cap of the best-selling beverages of the company — Pepsi, Mountain Dew and 7 Up — there was a three-digit code, and a winnings amount was from a thousand to a million pesos. The main prize of one million was intended for the only lucky person who found the number, which was to be announced at the end of the promotion.

The advertising campaign successfully used the thirst for easy money. Pepsi-Cola was right to use Pilipino region’s love for easy money and gambling. Of course, it worked: Pepsi’s sales grew by almost 40% in two weeks. Marketers were delighted and increased the number of prize caps to one and a half thousand, it even reached the most remote corners of the country. It is estimated that by the end of the campaign, 31 million people, more than half of the population of the Philippines, participated in it. Yes, the success was colossal, but the story did not end there. Declaring the winner was necessary. And he was announced. And then this is what happened:On May 25 Pepsi announced the final winner of one million pesos. The company made a mistake, and instead of one winner, 490,116 winners showed up with number 349 demanding their award.

Racism is a sin of Western countries

Even though an extra word about minorities can destroy a career and a reputation, many companies are still not careful on questionable advertising.

In 1999, during the Super Bowl advertising of sports shops Just for Feet, where the big white guys are chasing a Hummer behind a Kenyan runner. After 10 months, the company went bankrupt.

Sony PSP, Black vs. White

In 2006 in Amsterdam, the politically incorrect campaign managed to cause discontent at once two races. The tech corporation decided to change the color of its favorite Sony PSP game console. The original color of the console was black, but the designers of the company decided that it was required to release the model in white. Creative advertisers did not come up with anything better than to depict the competition between two color variations in the form of a series of fights of representatives of the European and Negroid races. Perhaps it was sometimes inspiring — for example, hidden eroticism was present on the poster, where the blonde is not too affectionate enough for the chin of an African American. But the consumer did not appreciate the idea. Evil tongues were rumored that the concept of ​​advertising was born at the head office of the company, in Japan, where the percentage of white and black is negligible, and their subtle feelings for a resident of the Land of the Rising Sun are deeply misunderstood.

It doesn’t matter how unique, or vital your product is — if people can’t afford what you’re selling, your company is out of luck. A prime example of lousy pricing in the healthcare industry just hit the headlines in recent weeks.


Marketers are usually the ones responsible for setting the appropriate price of a good or service.

Apple PDA Newton

Significantly ahead of time, Apple made its debut from the first versions of the Newton handheld computer in 1993. The product failed due to the high price (over $ 700), massive and negative PR. The direction, however, was chosen the right one.

Apple QuickTake

In 1994 Apple launched QuickTake, which was one of the first digital cameras with 0.3-megapixels, which made images of 640 × 480 pixels in size, and a built-in flash, but could only remember 8 pictures. Besides, photos could only be viewed on a computer, which was extremely inconvenient. The cost of the device was an impressive amount of 600–750 dollars.

Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese is a favorite family entertainment place with pizza and arcade games. Interestingly, Chuck E. Cheese game token prices are the same as 30–40 years ago! An incredible place in the modern world is untouched by inflation. Chuck E. As a result of meager price — high demand that doesn’t match supply. Long lines of people, who all want access to the same arcade games.

Violence accidents happening in different branches. Customers are just feeding tokens and not giving up their turn. It cost almost nothing to do it. Now Chuck E. Cheese switched to new plastique cards, which cost higher than token. As the violence level became impossible to handle.

Place Fast-food Chains In Vietnam

The fast-food industry thrives in most of the world. It is a $651 Billion industry. However, in Vietnam, the brand failed to expand. Burger King and McDonald’s have more than 36,000 and 16,000 locations in more than 100 countries around the globe. In Vietnam McDonald’s opened only 17 stores, whereas Burger King has only 13.Vietnamese food is fast cooking and cheap, which kills the concept of the fast-food value proposition. Also, Vietnamese war left a prejudice towards American culture and its product. No wonder locals still prefer their own cuisine. In a comparison of failure, McDonald’s planned to open at least 100 new branches. The goal was too optimistic since the brand had phenomenal success in mainland China, where it opened 136 new outlets for each year for 5 years and is still expanding all over the country. Currently, there are more than 2,400 restaurants in China!

Cleveland balloon accident

In September 1986 United way decided to hit the record by running almost 1.5 million balloons in the Cavendish branch of the non-profit organization. The action was arranged as a reminder of a poor city: in 1978 the Cleveland authorities declared a default, unemployment skyrocketed.It wasn’t the best day from the beginning. It began to rain in the morning. The event happened at a wrong time and wrong place.Balls with helium were quickly carried by the wind. The part settled in the airport near, so the flights were delayed. Other part fell into Lake Erie — and prevented the Coast Guard from finding the two missing fishermen. Later, their bodies were nailed to the shore, and the widow of one of them sued the organization for $ 3.2 million. Also, the mistress of the Arabian horse turned to the court: the horse was frightened because of the balls and crippled violently about the fence.After 20 years, Cleveland has turned into one of the most convenient cities for living in the US.

Failed viral campaign

In 2007, Turner broadcasting asked the “Partisan” agency interference inc to create a viral advertising campaign. The advertisers came up with a daring joke: printed circuit boards with batteries, capacitors, sticking wires and a mosaic of diodes in which the heroes of the show guessed at the roads, on the bridges, and in the subway. People from different cities didn’t pay attention. But in Boston, the marketing campaign turned out to be disastrous.Vigilant residents notified the police and the Ministry of Internal Security — the authorities blocked the motorway to Vermont, a couple of bridges, several roads and subway stations. The head of Turner Broadcasting quickly apologized, later the company paid $ 2 million to cover the costs of operatives — almost 3 times more than the price of shooting the film. The two young men who mounted the boards were sentenced to public works. They quickly got off: they could be imprisoned for 5 years.

Putting it All Together

Today with ease of sharing information through social media, marketers have to pay close attention to every new marketing strategy they are working on. To summarize it all:

1) If suddenly your brand name sounds like a severe disease, rebranding is a key for survival.

2) Study history.

3) Sometimes taste is not a key.

4) Calculate your generosity first.

5) Racism is a sensitive topic. Diversifying your workforce can play a crucial role in operating as a global corporation.

6) Do not over-price and under-price your product.

7) Do not expand to markets without in-depth analysis of buyer preferences.

8) Consider location for your promotional campaign better and understand hidden risks.

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