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6 Promotions That Didn't Quite Work Out

Marketing has come a long way in the last two centuries, but it's hard to get people's attention these days. Sometimes, you've got to do something big and outrageous and potentially dangerous, and sometimes, those things don't always work out exactly the way you'd planned. Like employing a guerilla marketing firm to promote a cartoon movie and inadvertently causing a citywide panic (see previous post: "Innocent Ideas That Prompted Mass Hysteria.")

With that in mind, here are a few of history's better bad marketing moves. Feel free to file these under "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

1. Sponsoring Headstones

Gaming companies are always pushing the bounds of bad taste in their products (Manhunt 2, anyone?), but in 2002, Acclaim Entertainment shocked the UK when it announced it would pay mourning families to place small billboards on their relatives' headstones advertising the game Shadowman 2. The company thought it was an appropriate place to advertise the "dark, gory" game, which it billed as a "journey to the Deathside." Acclaim later said the offer might "particularly interest poorer families." The Church of England responded by saying they had a hard enough time dealing with those plastic flowers in graveyards, and by no account would it allow video game advertisement on headstones. End of story.

2. Chocolate Bombs

Back in the fall of 1926, a Berlin chocolate company made international headlines after police shut down their marketing campaign—because citizens were complaining of bruises. According to a contemporary AP article in the New York Times, the company had been sending up two planes every Sunday to bombard crowds of people with foil-wrapped chocolates from a height of about 100 feet. "The aerial gifts were particularly objectionable to bald-headed men, whose custom it is to stroll with heads uncovered on the theory that the sun's rays stimulate the growth of hair. Mothers complained that children fighting for the prizes ruined their Sunday clothes."

3. Snapple Sees Marketing Stunt Melt Away

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You could see the logic here: What's better than a popsicle on a hot day? Nothing. Just maybe not a 25-foot, 17.5 ton popsicle. Snapple found that out the hard way in 2005 when the company unveiled their gargantuan kiwi-strawberry popsicle in the middle of Times Square, which promptly started to melt in the 80-degree heat, losing a torrent of sticky kiwi-strawberry concentrate all over the streets.

4. Molson to College Kids: "˜Drink up!'

It's not much of a secret that college and beer go together like, well, college and beer, but Molson brewing company found itself facing a whole poop-storm of controversy when it tried to capitalize on that fact. In 2007, the company launched an online marketing campaign targeting Canadian college kids, asking them to post their best party pictures on Facebook in a contest to determine Canada's top party school. The grand prize was a spring break trip to Cancun for the winner and four friends.

Parents and school officials were not pleased. One school official plainly told The Globe and Mail he was disgusted, while others demanded that Molson axe the campaign, claiming it not only targeted underage drinkers, but also promoted irresponsible drinking in a big way. The winning photo, they reasoned, would have to be pretty outrageous to merit a trip to Cancun.

Molson, bowing to the pressure, pulled the campaign.

5. Escape Artist Turned Marketer Has Brush With Death

In 1990, magician-cum-marketer Jim McCafferty wanted to launch his marketing and brand consulting business with a big time attention-grabbing stunt—and nearly died in the process. The idea was that McCafferty, straitjacketed, would be locked in a metal cage, welded shut on all sides. The cage would then be hoisted by a crane 300 feet off the ground and McCafferty would have two minutes to get out of the straitjacket, out of the cage, and attach himself to a harness before the timer released the cage and it plummeted to the ground.

McCafferty got out of the straitjacket with little problem, but found himself stuck in the cage. With just 10 seconds left on the clock, he managed to scramble out and onto the roof. As he fumbled with the harness, the timer ran out, and the cage fell 60 feet before he was able to click in to the harness and arrest his fall. McCafferty was taken away by ambulance, suffering from first- and second-degree rope burns. All was not lost, however: The crowd loved the stunt, thinking that McCafferty's brush with death was simply part of the act and McCafferty has gone on to run his successful million-dollar company.

6. Arrested for Vodafone

This would not be the first time anyone got naked in the name of advertisement, but it was certainly one of the few times anyone was arrested for it. In 2002, two brave young men raced across the rugby pitch during a match between New Zealand and Australia, clad in naught but the Vodafone logo. The two were caught, mid-streak, and escorted off the field by police. Vodafone later apologized for having "encouraged" the duo to do their naked run and later donated £30,000 to a nonprofit campaign to reduce sports injuries.

[Many thanks go to Entrepreneur magazine, whose compilation of PR stunts helped pad our list.]

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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