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  • Writer's pictureAlen Belavić

When marketing campaigns go wrong - volume 3

Every company wants to attract peoples attention for their products and services with their marketing campaigns. Sometimes their ideas and attempts backfire and they draw attention for all the wrong reasons. Here are some great examples of marketing blunders of big and small companies alike in the When marketing campaigns go wrong series.

If you didn't read the first two articles in the series on the subject, you can do click here for the Volume 1 and Volume 2. 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.

Hoover free flight fiasco - from promotion to bankruptcy

Hoover is a trusted house appliances manufacturer brand with over 100 years of tradition. With that in mind it is even more puzzling how they made such a big blunder with their promotion in the UK in 1992 that cost them staggering £50 million securing them the title of the worst sales promotion in history.

Hoover has been experiencing dwindling sales as a result of the economic downturn and a sharp increase in competing brands so they decided it is time to make a radical and bold move with a new and fresh approach to advertising. If a customer bought any product worth at least £100, he’d get two free round-trip flights to the United States. The problem was that the price for 2 tickets for a round trip to USA was around £600.


Hoover were counting on most customers spending more than £100, as well as being deterred from completing the difficult application process, and not meeting its exact terms. Hoover was very wrong!

Consumer response was much higher than the company anticipated with most of customers buying the minimum £100 of Hoover products to qualify for the promotion. And who can blame them? 2 plane tickets for the USA with £500 discount and you get a bonus vacuum worth £100 - what an incredible promotion, for the customer that is.

For Hoover it was the disaster that lead to the European branch of the company being eventually sold to one of its competitors, Candy, having never recovered from the losses, the promotion and the subsequent scandal. Hoover cancelled the ticket promotion after consumers had already bought the products and filled in forms applying for millions of pounds worth of tickets which resulted in protests and legal actions by disgruntled customers.

Coors light - Search+Rescue promotion

A famous beer brand had an excellent idea turned into a mission - save Canadians from an average summer. Their solution for that mission was a promotional campaign in 2014 called Search+Rescue - a month long scavenger hunt challenge to find hidden prizes all over Canada with the help of an online treasure map on a website and Twitter.


Coors Light scattered 880 briefcase crates in phases throughout Canada. Inside each box is a summer defining experience like racecar driving, rafting trips, access to exclusive Coors Light parties, or one of a wide variety of prizes such as wakeboarding gear or gift cards.

On the surface it looked like a very nice marketing gimmick to promote the beer company. You would check the map, follow the company´s Twitter account and try to find your own crate for an eventful summer experience. And eventful experience it sure was - it was THE BOMB (pun intended =) )

Residents of Toronto sure had an eventful experience on July 7th on one of Toronto’s busiest intersections for about two hours Monday evening after a suspicious package was found strapped to a post near a tram platform. People saw the suspicious package thought it might be a bomb and immediately called the police and the bomb squad.

The intersection was closed by the police, the trams were diverted causing major delays for the commuters getting back from work. Molson Coors Canada, the company behind the promotion, said the brand had taken all the necessary precautions ahead of the launch – heavily branding the boxes and reaching out to police and other first responders – and the mistake was simply a result of human error.

Karl Bonar, senior marketing manager at Molson Coors Canada said “The rules that we had when we were putting these boxes out were that we would go no where near transit shelters, schools or tourist areas. Although we did plan to drop one in that area, it was just human error. The wrong person put it in the wrong place. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”

After a massive backlash from frustrated people stuck in traffic and Molson Coors apology to the Canadians the remaining boxes were collected, but other promotional activities in the Search+Rescue campaign continued as planned.

Heinz ketchup promoting porno movie

Last entry to this volume of marketing campaigns gone wrong is the one and only ketchup giant Heinz. Heinz had a pretty standard campaign named "Spread the word with Heinz" running from 2012 to 2014 offering a personalized ketchup bottle labels.

On the back of the ketchup bottle they placed a QR code for easy access to their site to find out how you could get a personalized label for your ketchup bottle. After the campaign ended they still used the leftover stock bottles with the the same QR code for new ketchup, but there was a problem - the website domain of the campaign in the QR code expired and was bought by another company.


When a guy in Germany bought Heinz ketchup and scanned the QR code, he had quite a shock, instead of a way how to get a personalized label the code lead him to an adult porno site called Fundorado. He promptly turned to Heinz's Facebook page to point out the mixup, writing that “Your ketchup really isn't for under-age people. Even if the bottle was a leftover, it's still in lots of households. It's incomprehensible that you didn't reserve the domain [web address] for one or two years. It really doesn't cost the Earth.”

Heinz social media team were instantly apologetic and said they regret the event and that they are very happy to take his suggestions for how they implement future campaigns on board. To apologize they offered the man to create his own label and sent him a free bottle of ketchup with his design.

Riding on the wave of free PR Fundorado chimed in to suggest that Heinz had confused their “Hot Pink” porn website with the condiment producer's “Pink EZ Squirt” ketchup. Fundorado also offered him a free membership to their site.


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 these examples is you should always check if the promotion in question is financially feasible, stand back and check out if it can be seen as a bomb threat and always always check that you paid for your domain name while you have products with it on the market.

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 campaign.

source: - sunnystate

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