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  • Writer's pictureAlen Belavić

When marketing campaigns go wrong - volume 2

Big companies have big marketing budgets and big expectations from marketing, but sometimes even the big ones fail so spectacularly that you cant help but to laugh even though in some cases its not a laughing matter. If you didn't read our first article in the series on the subject, you can do it here. Now lets dive in with new examples of how not to start a marketing campaign if your objective is to make it successful and beneficial for the company.


September 11th 2001. also known as 9/11, is a well known date in modern human history which was marked by a horrible terrorist attack in the United States of America on the twin towers of World Trade Center and Pentagon building. It is marked as a single deadliest terrorist attack in the human history and the aftermath of it is still felt, especially in the US. Surely no one would try to use that big of a tragedy in a funny way for selling a product, especially mattresses, cause it doesn't make any sense ( as if any product would) and would be wrong on so many levels. And as if in a manner of a famous meme of someone trying to step the game up with a daredevil stunt and said Wait, hold my beer - the idea for this commercial was born, or so I try to explain to myself what happened here.

In 2016. on the 15th anniversary of the great tragedy a small company called Miracle mattress from San Antonio made history with a very cringe worthy commercial called The twin tower mattress sale. In the ad, mattresses are stacked side by side in two vertical columns to resemble the World Trade Center towers while a woman announces a sale on all mattresses for a "twin price."

Two men who are standing behind her then crash into the mattresses, toppling them. The woman feigns shock, then turns to the camera and says, "We'll never forget."

You don't believe me? Check the video commercial for yourself and see.

Yes, I know.... I was in shock too after seeing it, and couldn't figure out who in their right mind thought it was a good idea. The company quickly faced a massive community backlash that in the end resulted with it being closed indefinitely soon after with the owner apologizing left and right.

OGILVY Bounce back campaign

Maybe there is something connecting mattresses and bad promotional ideas because this is also a story about promoting mattresses in a extremely bad taste. In 2014. an Indian branch of the global marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather ( O&M ) was hired to make a marketing campaign for an Indian leading mattress company Kurl-On. The O&M produced 3 promotional posters with Bounce back captions. First 2 posters depicted were of Steve Jobs and Mahatma Gandhi. In the image a cartoon Steve Jobs is found thrown out of the doorway and falling down only to land on a Kurl-On mattress and bouncing back, an image was meant to represent his starting point and the way he built his successful career (presumably with the help of Kurl-On mattress). Same story was portraited with the life of Mahatma Gandhi.

kurl-on mattress campaign
kurl-on mattress campaign

But the third promotional poster was the one that got a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. O&M final poster was portraying a 14 year old girl Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist against The Taliban which nearly costed her her life. She was shot in the head and left for dead by The Taliban for her activism but fortunately survived. The attack didn't stop her and she spread her message even louder becoming the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at the age of 17. The poster depicts young Malala being shot by the Taliban only to bounce back on the Kurl-On mattress and in the end win the Nobel peace prize. There is a picture of the AK-47 before she was shot, bullet passing through her head, scene of her receiving blood transfusion just to land on the mattress.

Kurl-On Malala poster

The O&M agency even went so far and applied the Bounce back campaign for the Kyoorius Advertising and Digital awards, but withdrew it on May 14, 2014 on the second day of the jury session. The campaign received a massive world wide backlash forcing multiple branches of the O&M company and personal apologies from management with a lot of back pedaling in order to save face.

EA - It´s in the game

If you ever played any games you have probably heard about a company called Electronic Arts, or EA for short and their iconic " It´s in the game." moto. In 2009. as a part of a promotion for their new game The Godfather II, EA sent a press kit to journalists, bloggers and established game influencers a promotional pack that included the copy of the latest game including shiny brass knuckles as a promo gift.

Godfather 2  - Brass knuckles gift

Although it might at first look like a great marketing stunt - sending brass knuckles as you can probably use them in the game, and the game itself is based on the fictional Mafia story. Turns out no one actually did their research at EA because in most of the US states it is illegal to own brass knuckles, and in some states it is even illegal to ship brass knuckles.

After Electronic Arts realized their mistake that they were too much "in the game" they quickly asked for all the promotional packs to be returned including the game and brass knuckles. And of course that was not the end of it - EA broke the law on numerous counts, not only while producing and distributing the illegal knuckles, they also made everyone that received the package break the law - almost twice - because of their request of sending the brass knuckles back to them is also a felony. Some packages were sent back, in other cases the EA asked of people to dispose of the brass knuckles.

In the end the anticipated sequel of The Godfather flopped hard, it didn't live up to the hype so almost everyone forgot about EA sending illegal weapons and more that the game was bad.


After scouring the internet in research for this topic, we have realized that there are so many big blunders by big companies that it wouldn't fit in one article, so we decided to make a series of articles on the topic. The question stands, where do you draw the line - what is good and what is a bad promotion, if there is one thing learned from EA, don't go so far as to break the law, but even though Miracle mattresses and Kurl-On didn't break any laws they for sure didn't do themselves any favors.

In the end, behind every successful and every failure campaign there are people, and people make mistakes. And we all know that its better to learn on other peoples mistakes then on your own. So we hope you join us on this educational series of how not to do marketing campaigns.

source: - sunnystate

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