The Top 5 Failed PR Campaigns That Should Have Never Happened

Virtually every blog strives for reader interaction.

Beyond posted comments, I’m hoping Ishmael’s Corner can evolve into a platform for anyone who has a “story” on this form of communications called storytelling.

Toward this end, today brings our third guest post – the first one came from Michael Margolis and the second from Julia Sinykin – penned by Louise Baker who, like all of us, finds storytelling inspiration in novels. Louise calls out “To Kill a Mockingbird” as her favorite.

pr disastersOver the years, there have been many PR campaigns that went wrong and others that simply fizzled due to problems that should’ve been extremely obvious at the time. Here are five of the top PR campaigns that quickly turned into PR disasters.

1. BP Spends Millions on Advertising in the Middle of a Crisis

One of the most recent debacles of any large corporation was certainly the Gulf oil spill. How the company reacted to this crisis will certainly become a case study for bad PR in the future. This is one example where everything can not be solved with advertising. While commercials casting BP’s efforts to clean up the spill in a positive light may have seemed like a good idea, newscasters got plenty of airtime out of pointing out the fact they wanted to spend millions on commercials at the same time business owners, fishermen, and others were struggling for their livelihoods due to the spill that BP was responsible for.

2. OJ Simpson’s If I Did It

Another case of corporate greed in full effect was the incredibly flawed PR campaign behind OJ Simpson’s “fictional” account of how he would’ve murdered his wife if he had actually done it. The obvious subtext, that Simpson may have indeed murdered his wife, was played up in the marketing of the book on all levels. The ensuing firestorm of bad PR resulted in Rupert Murdoch having to personally cancel the book’s publication and fire the publisher in charge of its release.

3. Lite-Brite Terrorism

As part of the advertising of Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force animated film, 38 images of the “moonanite” characters created with the children’s toy Lite-Brite were placed around Boston in random locations. While this on the surface may have seemed like harmless guerilla advertising, certain people living in the city interpreted the Lite-Brites as bombs. The police lockdown of parts of the city that ensued resulted in the CEO of Cartoon Network resigning and charges being filed against two of the company’s employees.

4. Kentucky Grilled Chicken

KFC’s recent push to improve its PR by aggressively advertising its new grilled chicken is probably one of the best cases of “good PR” actually being bad for business. There is no doubt that fried chicken is one of the unhealthiest things a person can eat. However, KFC attempted to jump on the healthy food bandwagon with aggressive marketing of its new grilled chicken. Unfortunately, the grilled chicken has not met sales expectations. Even worse, the emphasis on the healthiness of the grilled chicken may have actually made many people turn away from KFC’s core product that will probably always be greasy and fattening.

5. The New Coke

Again, here is a classic case of a company getting behind a PR campaign to the detriment of its existing products. Due to the large market share of Pepsi, the bigwigs at Coca-Cola thought it was wise to replace the existing Coke with “New Coke.” Consumers hated the new formula with a passion. It is almost a wonder that Coca-Cola was able to make a comeback after this disaster. However, the marketing of “Coca-Cola Classic” is perhaps a good example of how to do just that.

Louise Baker blogs about getting an online degree at Zen College Life.

Note: If you got this far you might also want to check out “New York times Delivers Crisis to Apple CEO.”

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3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. magino November 17th, 2011 7:06 am

    well i guess advertising earns alot and creates good relations

  2. [...] Once you have done your research, understand your target audience, have a clear understanding of current events and related attitudes around what you are trying to campaign for, you will be able to make educated decisions on what your strategies, objectives, and tactics will be for your campaign. This will ensure that all aspects of your campaign connect and come back to the true message of what you are trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach. This will help you to (hopefully) avoid a campaign flop. You don’t want your campaign to end up like these unfortunate failures. [...]

  3. [...] relevance but definitely for their comedic value! You can see some of the worst PR campaigns here, here and here, where a whole website is dedicated to this topic. [...]

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