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Five Disastrous Campaign Fails and What you Can Learn From Them

Image courtesy of Henry Hayes@Flickr.com

For every hugely successful marketing campaign or product video, there are thousands that fail. While it is not possible for every campaign to be successful or go viral, some of them are so bad that they would have done more good for the brand if they had never been released. In an age where any publicity is considered to be good publicity, it may not seem like that much of a failure, but that is a risk that not every brand can afford to take, especially small, upcoming ones. If you don't want to take a risk, hire a company like Melty Cone which does professional product video production in NYC. Here are five such product promotions that backfired dramatically and some lessons that you can take home. 

Burger King- Wake up with the King 

Wake up with the King is one of those things that seem like a funny idea when discussed like a silly joke, but when put in video form, just seems absurd. The idea was simple, the mascot for Burger King, the Monarch, was funny back in the 80's, but like most old cartoons and characters, it did not age very well. The ad featured a large headed king with a permanent smile watching a young man sleep till he wakes up. It was, and still is quite unsettling. 

Lesson: Not everything that seems funny will turn out to be funny when put to screen. 

Snickers- Mr. T

Mr. T is known to be a super intense, extremely strong, and intimidating person. He has also made a name for himself as a fitness icon and a motivational speaker, who almost scares you into doing things. Snickers thought it would be a good idea to use this for a video and it could have worked, only if they hadn't made it seem so homophobic. In the ad Mr. T goes after an effeminate speed walker and shoots chocolate bars at him till he starts running. It seems like a funny idea, but gay rights groups pointed out, and rightly how the ad was being a tad bit discriminating. 

Image courtesy of Leni Murphy@Flickr.com

Lesson: Jokes have grown and changed over the years, while a lot of bias charged humor was passed off in the last few decades, it is not possible anymore. The only reason all that was permissible was because the ones affected did not have a loud enough voice. It pays to be more careful about what subjects you choose to make fun of or even if that was not the intention, some videos can end up seeming that way.  

Microsoft Vista- The Wow

Windows Vista as many of you may recall was one of the worst OS releases in the history of Microsoft. The video had a slide show of humanity's greatest achievements and breathtaking sights, people just staring at it and saying 'wow' at the end of each one. It was pretentious to say the least, but the product that followed it did not do it any good. It could have even worked if the product was half as good as what was delivered. Rivals Apple even made fun of it quite openly. In the months following release, a survey showed that even though over 80% of windows users were aware of the launch, less than 40% said that they will even consider moving to it. The campaign had a massive budget, nearly $500 million was pumped into it. Wow indeed! 

Lesson: Confidence in your product is good, but claiming to be the next biggest thing in the history of human achievements is taking it too far. 

Dr. Pepper Vs. Guns N' Roses 

Guns N' Roses was one of the most famous and popular of the hair bands from the 1980's, but come the 90's, they started slowing down. After a lot of internal feuds and misunderstandings, causing replacements and firing of key members of the crew, the album that was due in 1994 was yet to be released till 2008. Dr. Pepper, a subsidiary of Coca cola, took it on themselves to motivate the band and for some odd reason offered a free can of their drink to every American citizen if the band released their album by the end of 2008. They did not expect the band to actually come through as the album was stuck in a bog for over ten years. No album, no free cans, free publicity and easy mockery of the one the hardest rockers of all time right? Wrong. The album was released just eight months after the offer and when Dr. Pepper didn't come through, Axl Rose took it on himself to sue the brand for lying to the American public. 

Lesson: Do not make promises based on something you have no control over. Do not back out from a promise if you lose. Never underestimate the power of retaliation. Never make offers to the entire population of the country, that's just irresponsible. That is just four of the many lessons a brand can learn from the incident.  

Lamisil- It's alive

Not all products are attractive and not all products can be sold sexily. It also does not, in any way mean that you have to make it outright disturbing, painful to watch and disgusting. Lamisil managed to do all of that in just 90 seconds, with cartoons. If you don't believe that's possible, YouTube it. It starts off with a nail fungus introducing itself, then going up to a foot, peeling off the toe nail, climbing into the soft tissue and scratching it till it is completely destroyed. If you cringed just reading that, then you can only imagine how that would have gone down with audience. It was a good product and even the message was quite accurate, but the direction that clip took was so wrong.    

Lesson: Do not get explicit and leave scars in people's minds, even if your product or service deals with something that isn't very photogenic.        

The above mentioned brands and companies were all multinational, big name brands and for the most part, they were able to get over the bad press and backlash at these campaigns, but they definitely serve as examples with mistakes that you should clearly avoid.  


What is Melty Cone? Melty Cone is a full-service video production company in NYC. We make videos from start to finish; from creative idea conception to final video delivery.

Lucas Chu

Melty Cone Video, 67 West Street, Greenpoint, NY, 11222, United States

Melty Cone is a full service video production company in NYC. We make commercials, corporate videos, branded content, brand videos and the best videos in New York!