6 Bad Marketing Campaigns: How & Why

Marketing campaigns are a vital part of every company’s sales process. A marketing campaign can make or break your newly developed product. It can make it a bestseller, top-selling product in its niche. Also, it can take a product with great sales and turn it into something mediocre.

A very important aspect of the marketing campaigns is the research. This should take place before and after its start. A bad research done before the campaign starts will lead to disastrous results, whereas a misinterpretation of campaign’s metrics, during the post-launch research, will lead the marketing department to draw the wrong conclusions.

The most visible effects are the ones of a superficial research done before the campaign is launched. This can lead to unimaginable and uncontrollable results.

1) Coca-Cola and the New Formula

Coca-Cola almost had a monopoly until Pepsi-Cola took a big chunk of its market share. In order to regain that market share and boost sales, Coca-Cola decided to change the original recipe and called it ‘’New Coke” or “Coke II”.

‘’Everyone in the world recognizes the short-movies or commercials by Coca-Cola. So, naturally, when they used their very unique advertising strategies to introduce the new formula, everyone was eager to test it. The company made people believe they found something even better than the Coca-Cola we know and love, and then let them down terribly.’’ – says Nolan Gregory, an expert at the Movie Review AussieWritings.com Service.

Coca-Cola already had an amazingly popular brand and changing its core turned out to be a very bad idea with their marketing campaigns. They created a lot of buzz around this event, their customers were thrilled by the something new idea. Even so, launched in 1985, the New Coke didn’t produce the expected results. This led to an increase in sales for their lifetime rival Pepsi Cola. Soon after, the old recipe was used once again making their customers get back to their old habits.

Tip: If the sales of one of your products are doing great, before trying to a new approach for it, do some digging. Do some surveys, ask your customers what they think about the change, plan the right approach towards presenting that idea through your advertising and content. After all, you want them to buy the product, and increase sales, right?

2) Pepsi – A Marketing Campaign Lost in Translation

This one is epic! During its expansion process, Pepsi has reached China. As a motto for their products, they used “Pepsi brings you back to life”, which is quite a good one, actually. The bad aspect of this marketing slogan? Translated into Mandarin it sounds like this “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Now, that’s what we call a complete failure.

Their mistakes? They didn’t research their market from a cultural point of view and the way people interpret their message. They didn’t use a native translator, which is a rookie mistake. If the same language can have different dialects such as British English and US English. Think about two different languages, they can have totally different interpretations of a word or a phrase.

Tip: Make sure you keep in mind the cultural aspects of your target audience. Also, you should use native speakers to edit your content (slogans, descriptions, etc.)

3) McDonald’s and The Olympics

These marketing campaigns date back to 1984, year of the Olympics. To get some traction for their brand, McDonald’s decided to give away free burgers, snacks, and drinks to their customers, for every medal the US Olympics team wins. Everything sounds perfect until now, right? It’s not like they can win them all.

This is where the uncontrollable results of the superficial research begin to show up. They made this marketing campaign without keeping in mind the fact that Germany and Russia were not competing in this event. At the time, those two countries were the most redoubtable competitors of the US Olympics team.

The results? US Olympics team won 178 medals, including 78 gold medals. This performance made quite a big dent in McDonald’s marketing budget.

Tip: If your marketing campaigns are based on certain, out-of-reach, events, make sure you do some research on them.

4) Ford Edsel Marketing Campaigns

A mid-fifties Ford model called Edsel. This model was meant to be an innovative one, it had lots of new technologies. Ford managers, being afraid of technological theft, kept it a secret until its unveiling. Edsel was meant to make Ford a powerful competitor for the GM company.

Everything was running smoothly, they created lots of buzz around the unveiling event, it attracted lots of attention, but the results were disastrous. It had lots of new technologies and the price was higher than the average, it was considered a luxury car.

Why didn’t results show up? Well, because all this was happening during a great recession and instead of spending money on a fancy, state-of-the-art car, people were buying mid-class ones.

Tip: When launching a new product you should keep in mind the current economic climate.

5) Jägermeister’s Pool Party

Every bad plan looks amazing on paper. So was the plan of Jägermeister – to gather people in a swimming pool and give away plenty of the beverage during a great party.

What did the company do wrong here? No, the mistake was certainly not getting people drunk – it was trying to create a ‘smoking effect’ during that party. To do this, the organizers dumped liquid nitrogen in the pool!

Just doing some Googling beforehand would tell these people how terrible this idea is. But, since they didn’t, they created a chemical warfare agent – the toxic gas called nitrogen trichloride and sent their guests to the hospital.

One of these people spent 18 days in a coma in a hospital! I guess the smoking effect was a bit ‘too effective’.

Tip: Plan your marketing strategies beforehand. If you don’t know how to achieve something, research a bit or ask a professional. Don’t go rushing into making customers happy at the risk of sending them to the hospital.

6) United Way and the 1.5 Million Balloons

You have probably heard of what was supposed to be a wonderful, family-friendly marketing campaign by United Way in Cleveland. This spectacle happened in 1986 when the company decided to break the world record with balloons.

They decided to release 1.5 million balloons in the air, which was intended to look amazing to the people who were there to witness this ‘world record’. Surely, it did look cool when they did this, but would you believe that this caused many troubles afterward, including deaths?

As you know already, balloons fly upwards. When they reach a certain point, they pop. But, what happens when it rains?

Bad luck for the organizers, but the problem was that they forgot to check the weather prognosis. When it started raining, the balloons went downwards instead of upwards and ‘buried’ Cleveland under 1.5 million balloons!

The big problems came later. Over the weeks that followed, the one million and a half of balloons forced a runway at the Burke Lakefront Airport to shut down, prize horses to injure themselves from panic, and two missing boaters to die because the rescuers couldn’t find them between all those balloons in the water!

This mishap on behalf of the organizers cost the company approximately $3 million and devastatingly, cost two people their lives. And all because of balloons!

Tip: Consider everything that can go wrong with your plan. If you are planning to do something massive and potentially dangerous, be prepared for any situation that can go wrong.


Marketing campaigns are a vital part of every product’s life cycle. It is of utmost importance that those campaigns are thoroughly researched before being implemented. Unless this happens, chances are they will misfire, and that’s the best-case scenario. Even worse, they can do a whole lot of damage to your company’s brand, revenues, and they can put an end to a product’s lifecycle.

These 6 errors are one of the most famous ones. As you may guess, lots of marketing errors were made by small or large companies. If you don’t want this to happen to your company, aim to create a consumer-centered approach to boost sales.

Olivia Ryan
Olivia is a passionate blogger who writes on topics of digital marketing, career, and self-development. She likes nature, knows how to enjoy silence and is keen on writing for different websites. Meet her on Facebook and Twitter.
Olivia Ryan

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