The Worst 8 Of ‘08

THE WORST 8 OF ‘08
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Last time we looked at the Top 8 of ’08: the best marketing campaigns of the year. As promised, today we’ll survey the biggest marketing blunders of 2008.

#8. Walmart: Facebook Page
So, just to review: cool social networking requires three things: cool, social, and yes, networking. We thought everyone understood this, until we watched Wal-Mart’s infamous Facebook fiasco. The retail giant lumbered onto Facebook with a humorless, decidedly uncool fan page with little content and no benefits. There’s no real community and fans get no “social capital” by associating themselves with the company. Lastly, after suffering through some insults on their discussion board, Wal-Mart ditched their discussion boards. The network (I use that term loosely) has been downgraded to occasional wall posts that the Orwellian behemoth censors. The worst part is the lost potential. The number one Facebook page associated with Wal-Mart is “30 Things to Do at Wal-Mart”. Others include “I love pointless trips to Wal-Mart” and “I’m bored, let’s go to Wal-Mart.” These groups have wittier, more loyal and positive posts. The official page could have widgets. For example: the “Money saved since January 1, 2009” counter from its corporate website, Facebook-only coupons, or specials that are only good for the next 2 hours. Wal-Mart’s mascot is the happy face “Rollback Man”, which could star in an infinite number of badges. Sadly, Wal-Mart missed the boat completely because it doesn’t understand the medium.

#7. The Big 3 Automakers: unintended bailout campaign
OK, so this wasn’t technically a marketing campaign. However, when the eyes of America were watching (and were already bailout-bitter), the Big 3 CEOs came to Washington to beg for billions. The worst marketing blunder, though? GM CEO Richard Wagoner, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally flew in their private jets to our nation’s capital. If I’d been their marketing advisor, they would have humbly driven down in their hybrid cars. Doing so would have: resulted in tons of free press for the cars, sent a message of humility, cost effectiveness, and environmental awareness and sent the message that “our hybrids are so great, even our CEOs love to drive them.” Big blunder.

#6. Coors: “Code Blue” MySpace campaign
Here again, a major marketer blunders in the social networking medium. Coors has done many good things in the viral/social media campaigning. However, it’s Code Blue campaign allowed MySpacers to send unlimited text messages saying “Code Blue” to anyone they wanted. The result? Cell phone users were overwhelmed with both the cost and the annoyance of text messages from Coors. The viral aspects went out of control, and the backlash of public anger sank the campaign.

#5. Sales Genie: Superbowl Ad
The service is a solid idea: provide leads to companies and salespeople. However, in 2008, Sales Genie blew their marketing budget on an ad that was able to turn off 97.5 million viewers in 30 seconds. The ad, featuring panda bears running an unsuccessful bamboo furniture store, would have been forgotten as a poorly written, uninteresting waste of an advertising budget, except that it was filled with racist innuendos. Sales Genie only wishes that the ad could be forgotten.

#4. Starbucks: Friends and Family Week
Ah, those good intentions… In 2008, Starbucks decided to spoil the friends and families of their Baristas with a week of free iced coffee. However, Starbucks cancelled the program after the first day when crowds of “friends” and “family” overwhelmed the stores. Annoying your best customers is definitely not a great move, but here’s the real kicker: Starbucks had done a similar promotion in 2006 and had similar results. You’d think they’d learn.

#3. Judd Apatow: Forgetting Sarah Marshall billboards
Apatow, director of many hit movies such as “40-Year Old Virgin (2006),” “Knocked Up (2007),” and “Superbad (2008),” wanted a quirky, viral-worthy marketing campaign for his new movie. The campaign consisted of “hand-written” signs ostensibly written by the jilted ex-boyfriend slamming a girl named Sarah Marshall. The problem? Apparently, “Sarah Marshall” is a pretty common name. Sarahs all over the country were surrounded by ego-boosters like “You do look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall” and “My mother always hated you, Sarah Marshall.” Ms. Marshalls across the nation protested (or at least would have, if they could’ve handled leaving the house). Some even responded with similar sayings to Judd Apatow himself. The result? The movie, and its creator, just looked mean.

#2. Microsoft: Seinfeld and Gates
After being beat up by Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign (see Top 8 of ’08) for almost two years, Microsoft finally decided to put up its dukes and fight. Microsoft’s campaign featured Jerry Seinfeld showing Gates the real world in an attempt to connect to regular people. The ads mocked both Bill Gates and his “regular guy” customers, but worse yet, they were neither funny nor well-branded. The ads were the antithesis of Apple’s campaign, and were cancelled so quickly that the third commercial, already filmed, was never aired.

#1. John McCain: Presidential Campaign
The 2008 presidential election was as much a race between marketing strategies as it was between candidates. Obama’s young, inclusive, techno-savvy campaign (see top 8 of ’08) helped raise money and win the election. McCain’s marketing, however, looked tired, indecisive and dispassionate. McCain misstep: a cluttered and fragmented message. Is experience important? Yes, until Sarah Palin came on board. Was he a maverick? Yes, except he couldn’t disentangle himself from President Bush. Was he the champion of lowered government spending? As long as you ignored the vote for a $700 Billion Bailout weeks before the election. Was he the inclusive candidate, reaching out to younger voters, women and minorities? Well, no on that one. These were communication and marketing strategy decisions. Many times, the campaign simply couldn’t get the word out on his position. They let the media and the opponent define McCain, and for that, they’re our biggest blunderer of ’08. Hey, at least he came in first this time!

Did I forget anyone? Don’t agree? Let me know!

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