The 5 Worst Campaigns Of 2012



One of the worst things about being a marketer isn’t when someone doesn’t like something you do, nor is it when someone has a negative experience with your brand because you can always make right with passionate fans who haven’t been fulfilled. The worst thing about campaigns that fail is when customers silently walk away, sometimes for good.


Since 2012 is coming to a close and it has been quite a year for weird and wonderful campaigns, we’re looking back on some of the worst marketing campaigns an executions of the year.


Belvedere Vodka: One in a long line of ads which used “wink-wink” comedy about rape to promote their product. This ad, depicting a woman seemingly being choked from behind with the copy reading “Unlike some people, Belvedere always go down smoothly” was posted to the brand’s Facebook page, causing an instant uproar. There was a HUGE backlash in the press and beyond, because posting the image to Facebook enabled it to be shared instantly with commentary and original attribution seamlessly. To add insult to injury, the woman who appears in the ad took extreme offence, because not only did she disagree with the tone of the ad, the image used was stolen from an unrelated video she acted in for her employer.


Lessons learned: Facebook is an instant barometer of tastelessness. Don’t put anything on there on behalf of your brand you wouldn’t want your family to see because they likely will. Don’t steal images. Oh, yeah, and don’t associate your product with rapists.


Windows 8: How could your product lose when a sweaty, angry man is yelling at you to like it? So began the saga which was the Windows 8 launch this past year. The product itself piqued the interest of technophiles, aided partially by the beautiful interface and positive user reviews of the Windows phone.


But the product, once launched, wasn’t being adopted by the public. Searches for “Windows 8 fail” turn up millions of results. Often, people were having major failures trying to perform upgrade installs.


Twitter was rife with complaints and poor reviews. It was not the time to fumble the ball. Microsoft decided to blame the problems of early adoption on OEMs who, in their opinion, weren’t rolling out the product quickly. Clearly, Microsoft wasn’t prepared for potential customers to simply walk away quietly once they heard negative word of mouth.


Lessons learned: In a connected world, you can’t afford a sub-standard product. This is Microsoft’s first OS release in the heart of the social media explosion. Apple has plenty of detractors, but their fans vastly drown them out on social media. Microsoft needs to leverage the power of blogs and their own passionate fans to do everything in their power to make them talk up their product. Lastly, Microsoft has always had a strained relationship with the media. It’s time to make friends.



Pizza Hut Perfume: If imitation is deemed to be the sincerest form of flattery, Pizza Hut Canada is the most congenial brand this year. Four years ago, Burger King teased they would release “Flame,” a real perfume, which would be sold in a limited edition to only the biggest burger fans and, presumably, those who want to smell of grilled meat.


The reaction to flame in the media and in social channels was immediate and positive, and helped raise the profile and “cool factor” for Burger King.


Pizza Hut decided enough time had passed and announced their perfume recently. It was still partially well received, but nowhere near the media impressions or impact of the original (considering it came on the back of an actual original product – hot dog stuffed crust pizza, it seems like they missed a trick, or didn’t understand how to google it.)


Lessons Learned: The internet is a cruel, newness-eating monster. You can’t rip off your competitors and expect brand new reactions.


Bic for Her: Anyone who’s ever seen Dragon’s Den knows that the Dragons don’t invest in products which they don’t think solve a widespread enough problem. Enter Bic, who this year launched “Bic for Her:” smaller, pink pens to appeal to women’s hands and presumably, their discerning fashion sense.


This wasn’t a problem any women thought they had. The story spread in a rather unusual way: outraged women left “joke” reviews on Amazon, Staples, and any other online stores who carried them. These reviews were then shared everywhere online, and eventually hit blogs like Buzzfeed. The ridiculously sexist product was shut down by  the public.


Lessons Learned: Traditional focus groups aren’t always necessary, but if you’re going to launch a product like this, try inviting existing users to try it out, perhaps through Facebook, or your own e-mail lists. A group of product fans could have put a stop to this product before millions were invested in production, distribution, and advertising.


NBC Olympics Coverage: While the world watched the London Olympics, some of us saw a different story than others. Whereas most of the western world watched the Opening Ceremony as-it-happened, in its entirety, NBC viewers watched a truncated version (omitting the important 7/7/7 tribute, among other things) on a four-hour tape delay. In a social media world, this is a death sentence. Videos appeared on Youtube before the actual event was aired in America. Tens of millions of tweets flooded the web well before anyone in the US could watch what they were hearing about. What should have been one of the great “second screen” experiences turned out to be a bum note for sports-loving Americans.


This continued for the duration of the games, and got worse. NBC promos for extremely popular events like swimming showed who won the medals.


Irate viewers complained on Twitter, opened parody accounts, and wrote scathing blogs. The New York Times and the Washington Post asked if NBC “didn’t get it.”


And they didn’t. Their own executives took to Twitter to tout their viewership numbers, their all-time-high advertising revenue, and to pat themselves on their backs for their excellent job.


But the public didn’t stop complaining, and when you search for NBC Olympics, you can see a trail of disappointment, which will live online forever.


Lessons Learned: Old business models die when the public changes their minds. Great businesses anticipate this and plan accordingly. The best businesses also react in the public’s best interests when a problem has been discovered.


Lessons Learned:


The most important takeaway from 2012 to avoid your brand making the same mistakes is to leverage the voice of the web by ASKING for input and advice. The social web can sink your brand if you don’t take the time to engage with your customers, so it’s your duty to be proactive.


If your brand does make mistakes, it is imperative that you put yourself in the shoes of those who have complained, take the complaints on board, and act quickly to rectify the issue in a meaningful way. Only politicians can get away with an “I’m sorry if offence was caused” apology.


Next, we’ll look at some of the best activations of 2012.


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