10 Marketing Stunts with Disastrous Consequences

Marketing can be a difficult game. A lot of brands aren’t really selling anything anybody needs. Promoting your company is more about you as a person than the product. This means brands need to remain relevant and must pull off crazy stunts to get our attention.

These big brands often throw a lot of money at professionals. The event is smooth and without drama. Sometimes, however, they hire the wrong person and it all goes horribly wrong.

10 Jagermeister’s Pool Party

Imagine a Venn diagram with Jagermeister’s event team on the left and skilled chemists on the right. The middle section is likely to be sparse. It is best to not leave the Jagermeister team with dangerous chemicals. They proved that they were unable to handle liquid nitrogen at a brand promotion in Leon (Mexico).

This event was a pool party that took place in 2013, with around 200 young people attending. The event managers decided to add smoky effects to the pool by pouring liquid Nitrogen over it. They didn’t realize that liquid nitrogen mixed with chlorine could cause a smoky effect. creates a toxic gas.

Soon people started to become unconscious. Not good news, especially when there are many people swimming. Thankfully, none of the participants died. One 21-year old man ended up in a Coma, while eight others were admitted to the hospital.[1]

9 Dr. Pepper’s Treasure Hunt

Sometimes it’s hard to fathom how these marketing ideas were born into existence. Cadbury Schweppes, the soda’s owner at the time, decided to host a treasure hunting for Dr. Pepper. They hid coins worth different amounts of money in the city in 2007. Participants had to find the coins using clues in order to win the cash prize.

One clue led me to a graveyard. A Boston graveyard, 347 years old, that was the final resting place of, among others, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine. The obvious issue is likely to have been spotted by now. After contestants began to descend upon the burial site, the city stopped the hunt. They were afraid that the people would dig the site up. Dr. Pepper apologized, stating the coin should not have “been placed in such a hallowed site.” Something that really should have been obvious before people were running into a cemetery with shovels.[2]

8 LG’s Accidental Riot

Another event that wasn’t thought through beyond its first move. It is unlikely that this list includes many skilled chessplayers. LG promoted a 2013 event where 100 helium balloons would be released, each one containing a coupon for a smartphone.

These were pricey smartphones that they were giving away—valued at more than $850US. The people who turned up were out to win. The balloons were released and the crowd below pulled out BB guns to start firing. Twenty people were hurt. the resulting scrum. LG decided that it should probably cancel any remaining similar events. It was very wise.[3]

7 Domino’s Tattooed Giveaway

Domino’s bit off more than they could chew with a bizarre marketing strategy in Russia in 2018. They asked fans to get a tattoo of the company’s logo in a prominent place on their body. A contestant would be awarded a lifetime supply pizza if photos of the tattoo were uploaded to social media. They didn’t realize how many people would accept their offer.

They had planned to run this campaign for two months and award the pizza to anyone with a tattoo they shared on Russia’s Facebook-like social media platform. They received so many images of tattoos after just five days that they had no choice but to change the campaign to the first 35 people. You sure wouldn’t want to be number 351 who hadn’t heard about the change of plans.[4]

6 Paramount’s Bomb Scares

Here’s another 1-D chess player. They took their idea to L.A. streets this time. Paramount Marketing Team, promoting the new Mission Impossible IIIThey placed electronic devices on newspaper racks throughout the city. The film’s theme music would be played when the door was open.

These devices looked a lot like homemade bombs, unfortunately. Many panicked citizens quickly called the police. One news rack was blown up the bomb squadResponding to one of the bomb threat reports. This is a bit extreme, but it was a plastic container with wires sticking out of it attached to the newspaper boxes.

These were placed in 4500 different newspaper vending machines. This left emergency services with a lot of calls, even though they knew it was a music box. Paramount Pictures was sued. Paramount Pictures was then sued and ordered to pay $75,000 to settle the negligence claims.[5]

5 Snapple’s Downtown Flood

This story shows how event planners failed in their responsibility to recognize that ice could melt on a hot day. Snapple had just launched a line of frozen treats and decided that a record-breaking stunt would be appropriate to promote it. They wanted to create the largest popsicle ever created and place it in New York City. They were forced to take a 25-foot tall, 17.5-ton ice sculpture from a Manhattan freezer truck on a hot summer day in 2005.

The giant Snap-icle began to melt before they could even set it upright. Strawberry-kiwi pink gooThe traffic began to flow down the streets. As onlookers ran to higher ground, police had to close the road. Representatives from the brands have said that no second attempt will be made to break this record.[6]

4 Fiat’s Love Letters

Fiat sent letters to 50,000 Spanish women in a stunt that was poorly planned. The letters claimed to be from a secret admirer. There was no signature. The origin of the letter was not revealed. The letter claimed to be from someone who saw the woman on the street and had written it. It further said, “I only need to be with you for a couple of minutes, and even if it doesn’t work out, I promise you won’t forget our little experience together.”

These were definitely creepy letters to get. Many women believed they were being stalked. Two weeks later, a second letter arrived. The second letter explained to the women that the first was a marketing strategy and invited them to visit their Fiat dealer. Enraged, the women refused to accept the offer. They decided that it was better to sue Fiat.

These mail recipients won the case. However, the payout was very small. Fiat was fortunate to have this campaign before the advent of the internet (1994), so word about their creepy gaffes didn’t spread too far.[7]

3 Lay’s Rainy Days

Lay’s (chips), which are known as Walkers (crisps) in the UK, decided to run a campaign where participants could bet on when and where it would rain. PepsiCo, which is the US-based company behind the campaign, didn’t realize how easy this competition would be in the UK where it rains almost every day.

Many bets were quickly won. Although contestants only received a payout of £10 for a correct bet, soon payouts were over $600,000, and the company could not continue. Walkers tried to modify their rules halfway through, restricting the amount that participants could wager. This triggered backlash and a warning from the UK Watchdog regarding advertising standards. They were banned the campaignIt is unlikely that it will ever happen again.[8]

2 Amazon’s Nazi Trains

As a promotion stunt in 2015 The Man in the High CastleAmazon decorated subway cars in New York with themed decorations for their new TV series, Amazon. The show shows the USA under Axis in an alternate reality where Japan and Germany had won WWII. These decorations were based on the Third Reich and Imperial Japan insignia.

These designs were used to cover subway trains’ seats and walls. They managed to avoid including a swastika.

A spokesperson stated that advertising a show featuring this subject matter would be difficult. Others thought it was very insensitive and unappetizing to plaster Nazi symbols everywhere you go in New York City’s morning commute.[9]

1 Cartoon Network’s Shady Boxes

The Cartoon Network managed to cause chaos and panic across Boston with a marketing stunt—poor Boston; this one was also in 2007, the same as the Dr. Pepper cemetery fiasco from above.

The marketing company they hired decided to place advertisements on the streets. They had an artist create boxes with LED lights depicting a character—Mooninite—from Aqua Teen Hunger ForceThey promoted a new show called “The Luminaries”, all over the city.

Many residents were alarmed at the sight of these devices and called emergency services. One of the devices was so suspicious that it was set off on the spot. Some residents thought the panic was absurd and mocked it. They started a campaign placing stickers on devices like ATMs and parking meters reading “this is not a bomb.” Others, however, took it very seriously.

The artist behind the piece has been arrested. Turner Broadcasting was the parent company of Cartoon Network and was ordered to pay more than $2 million to various law-enforcement agencies and security agencies that were cited.[10]

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