Villing & Company

Quoth the Maven Nevermore: Ten Terrifying Tales of Marketing Mayhem

As I ponder weak and weary (after staying up past the witching hour to watch the World Series), All Hallows Eve seems a grotesquely appropriate day to reflect on the haunting tales of misguided marketing mad men.

What better place to start than the home of the eternal "pause that refreshes." Specifically we go to China where urban legend has it that Pepsi decided to introduce itself with a sparkling new tagline, "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation." Unfortunately, in Chinese, that translates to "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." Not exactly the sort of uplifting marketing message the folks at Pepsi had in mind.

In the spirit of equal time, let's return to the thrilling days of yesteryear when Coke decided to bring the world "New Coke" and may have earned a permanent place in the marketing Hall of Shame.

Speaking of halls and horror classics, the ultimate misstep probably falls to Ford where the Edsel will forever haunt the successors of Henry Ford.

Even the angelic Apple Corporation has occasionally strayed from the straight and narrow. Lest we forget, Apple gave us that wonderful introduction of Apple Maps. One bite of that app and a trip to Paradise, Pennsylvania could lead to Hell, Michigan.

Had Apple Maps been around a few decades earlier, however, and it might have helped us stay clear of Chicago's Comiskey Park. That was the scene of the night Chicago died – or rather disco was demolished in perhaps the scariest sports promotion ever conjured up by marketing mortals.

Of course, some of the biggest errors in marketing were of the omission variety. Did you know that...

  1. Western Union passed on an offer from Alexander Graham Bell to buy the patent for the telephone?
  2. Decco Records listened to 10 tracks from four floppy haired kids from Liverpool, England and declined to sign them because "guitar groups were on their way out"?
  3. Groupon turned down a $6 billion buyout offer from Google?

I guess sometimes you just have to say "no".

The execs at Timothy's Coffee should have said "no" to a promotion a couple years ago that turned into a classic social media nightmare. I mean what's not to like about offering free coffee as an incentive to "like" Timothy's on Facebook? Only one problem. The offer was for not one, but four 12-packs (retail value of $17 each) and running out of product in three days. Love may mean never having to saying you're sorry, but unrequited likes make for serious apologizing.

I could go on, but this being Halloween, I can only afford to give out the snack size versions of these tantalizing tidbits. And the gremlins of marketing madness past are already knocking on my door.

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