Monday, September 02, 2013
Great promotional disasters. Can you add to this list?
Many, many years ago when I joined the Foods Division of Cadbury Schweppes in the UK (a unit destined to become Premier Brands), graduate trainees were often regaled with stories of past marketing mistakes by their more experienced colleagues.
A favorite story was the great goldfish giveaway. Unfortunately, while the promotion proved very attractive, none of the goldfish survived being mailed to the participants. Apparently no one involved had figured out in advance that goldfish might not take well to a trip through the British postal service. The emotional response from the kids that had entered the promotion was probably not what the eager brand manager hoped for either.
This possibly mythical event came to mind when a friend sent me a link to this story concerning a promotional stunt for a new LG phone that went horribly wrong. The idea for the G in the Cloud event was that people would chase down 100 helium balloons, each with a voucher for a new LG G2 smartphone costing about $850.
However, when the crowd turned up armed with knives, BB guns and sharpened staves, things went dramatically wrong and seven people ended up in hospital. Again, probably not the outcome that the organizers might have hoped for, although I am sure they consoled themselves with the old adage that there is no such thing as bad PR.
Attaching the word “free” to any promotion is likely to create a positive response from a large number of people, as KFC learned to its cost in 2009. In order to promote its new grilled chicken meal, KFC enlisted the help of Oprah Winfrey to publicize online coupons that entitled the bearer to a free meal. It is reported that 16 million people went online and printed out the coupon. Faced with unprecedented demand and mayhem at its stores, KFC was forced to cancel the promotion.
While I can quite understand how debacles like these can come about – who has not done something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but then went horrendously wrong? But you would think that by now the word “free” when attached to a promotional idea would sounds alarms for any competent brand manager. Yes, the idea of free stuff is very attractive, but it is also prone to creating a hysterical response that may get out of control.
So this got me thinking, are there any promotional disasters that seem like a good idea but often go wrong in practice? If you know of any promotional disasters, please share them here and we will see whether there are any consistent traits. Thank you.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 02, 2013
and is filed under Brands.
You can leave a response.