Modern Marketing

When Good Marketing Goes Bad: 3 Major Blunders


Planning a creative and unique marketing campaign is exciting, but you should never let excitement override common sense. On occasion, a marketing campaign that initially seemed promising and effective will turn out to be a disaster, and some of them even result in serious losses.

Here are some examples of great marketing ideas gone bad:

Casa Sanchez: Tattoo for Free Lunch

tattoo casa sanchez free lunch

California-based Mexican restaurant Casa Sanchez offered a lifetime of free lunches to customers who would have its logo tattooed on their bodies.

When the number of inked customers reached 40, the owners of the restaurant realized that they would lose $5.8 million in revenue if all of those customers had lunch at their restaurant every day over a 50-year period.

To limit their loss, they decided to stop offering the deal after the count reached 50.

Snapple: The Giant Popsicle Meltdown

In an attempt to break the world record for the largest popsicle, Snapple created a 25-foot and 35,000-pound kiwi-strawberry popsicle.

worlds largest popsicle snapple

The company planned to erect the giant popsicle at Times Square on the first day of summer – when the temperature rose to about 80 degrees. As the popsicle was being raised by a crane, it melted and flooded the street with sugary goo. Why a popsicle? And why on an 80 degree day without a proper cooling system? No one knows, but what a sight to see.

GM: Pontiac Giveaway on Oprah

During a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah gave every member of her 276-strong studio audience a brand new Pontiac G6 sedan.

oprah pontiac giveaway

According to GM, which donated the cars, the total cost of the publicity stunt amounted to about $8 million. While this wasn’t an embarrassing failure, it’s questionable whether or not GM got their money’s worth. Despite their financial backing, GM did not get the lion’s share of the publicity. In the end, the focus was on Oprah and her generosity – so she came out the biggest winner.

The Potential Cost of Marketing Gone Bad

A marketing snafu can hurt your business in all kinds of ways, but financial losses are some of the hardest (and most embarrassing!) to recover from.

The easiest way to lose money is to miscalculate the total cost and potential gain of your marketing campaign. Other expensive mistakes include campaigns that result in injuries, damage of property, or lawsuits, all of which can lead to substantial financial loss.

In the long term, a marketing snafu that jeopardizes the reputation of your company can eventually cost you customers. High-profile mistakes can undermine your credibility, causing your current customers to lose faith in you, or your current prospects to look elsewhere.

How to Deal With Marketing Blunders

When a marketing blunder threatens the reputation of your company, the best course is to act quickly. Never expect that the problem will just go away — if it doesn’t, the cost of waiting could be deadly.

After a blunder, you should immediately provide an explanation or apology to the public, which may keep unfavorable reactions under control. You may also offer benefits, such as discounts or free gifts, to win back favor. If your company has a strong social marketing base, you can use social media and press releases to respond to customer complains directly and apologetically. Handled gracefully, a marketing blunder can become an opportunity to nurture your relationships with your customers.

But the truth is, when it comes to marketing mishaps, prevention is always better than cure. As such, it is important that you’ve explored every possible outcome before you’ve launched your marketing campaign, especially how internet reputation management services can assist your efforts. All business decisions involve some form of risk, but knowing how to find the right balance between risk and caution is the key to ensuring long-term success. The bottom line? Don’t get caught up in your own hype.

To end on a positive note, check out some of our favorite marketing campaigns for inspiration. Did I miss any famous marketing blunders? Have a story of your own to share? Leave them in the comments section below.