Promotional disasters: We share our top five favourites!
Promotions are all about making your brand stand out, increasing sales and raising awareness. But sometimes marketers can take the publicity side of things too far and it can lead to bad press or public scrutiny from a logistical or ethical point of view. So, we’re going to look at the top five worst promotions (in our opinion!) and learn some lessons along the way!
#5 Sunny Co’s Pamela Bathing Suit
Back in the summer of 2017 Sunny Co Clothing launched a ‘repost picture and tag company’ promotion in which all those who did just that would receive a replica Pamela Anderson, Baywatch, Bathing suit (RRP $64.99). Seems harmless enough, how could it possibly go wrong? Unfortunately for Sunny they received thousands of reposts and the response blew them away. They failed to cap the number of redemptions and went back halfway through the promotion to do so, upsetting a large majority of their consumers. This could have been prevented by clear and concise terms & conditions, and a better estimate of demand for their reward.
#4 McCain – The Great British Raffle
Although there is nothing wrong, legally speaking, morally this promotion probably shouldn’t have been run and caused a fair bit of national upset. McCain ran a promotion which involved finding the printed code from the inside of your packet of frozen chips and entering it online to discover whether or not you had won. The problem was the algorithm they used. It meant that unless every code was entered, the prizes wouldn’t be won so out of the 28, 515 prizes up for grabs, only 160 prizes were won. Including zero out of 10 Mini Cars and four out of 500 spa retreats which were the top two prizes. This would have been easier to swallow if instead of making the claim “£3 million worth of prizes will be won” McCain had instead claimed that “£3 million worth of prizes can be won.
#3 Oprah Winfrey & KFC
KFC worked alongside popular American TV personality Oprah Winfrey back in 2009 and she announced their new “healthier meal option” on her talk show, enabling anyone to go onto her website and download a coupon for a free meal. On one hand it did exactly what they planned, gaining masses of publicity, but on the other, it backfired horrendously. After just the first day stores ran out of chicken, queues were up to an hour long and KFC stopped accepting coupons prior to its 2 week expiry date). The aftermath saw KFC having to pay a $1.5 million lawsuit and having to pay those who had the coupon the cost of the meal ($4.99).
#2 American Airlines
In 1981, American Airlines needed funds fast so decided to release the “AAirpass” which meant for $250,000 you could gain unlimited first-class travel for life. To begin with it was a successful venture, gaining major publicity and a chunk of short-term gain. However, the whole operation was completely undone by a man call Steven Rothstein who over the next 25 years took over 10,000 flights all around the world, costing the airline company masses and eventually causing the company to declare bankruptcy and merge. It’s important when looking to take on a publicity stunt to consider not just the short term but long term as well.
#1 Burger King Russia – World Cup 2018
During the Russia 2018 World Cup, Burger King’s Russian Department decided to launch a promotion where the winner would receive tickets to the final, money and a lifetime supply of whoppers. You are probably thinking, all okay so far, right? Well, in order to enter you must “conceive a child with a World Cup player”. As you can imagine, this wasn’t received very well by… anyone and after major backlash they withdrew the promotion all together. After less than a week of it being live, Burger King officially apologised!