30 Times PR & Companies Messed Up So Bad It Made Some Of Them Face Bankruptcy Interview
Running a successful corporation can’t be easy, which is why they're typically well-oiled machines kept on tight leashes. But every now and then, companies commit shockingly terrible blunders that will always be remembered as masterclasses in what not to do.
Reddit users have recently been reminding others of some of these historic mistakes, including the biggest PR disasters we’ve watched unfold, so we’ve gathered the worst stories down below. Enjoy reading about these trainwrecks that you can be glad you weren't responsible for, and be sure to upvote the ones that must have required significant damage control!
One of Swedens biggest firms for building managing is called Locum. In the late nineties it was very cool for companies to have logos where their names were spelled in lower caps. So the logo was "locum". One Christmas Locum took out big ads in the biggest papers wishing everyone a merry Christmas and conveying the love that they felt for Sweden. How did they decide to do this? By replacing the "o" in locum with a heart of course.
So big ads that looked like this: "l ♥ c*m".
Nestle convincing thousands of women in low income countries that they should wean off their babies and substitute breast milk for extremely expensive formula because breast milk wasn't fully nutritious, but also forcing new mothers to spend 30% of their income JUST on baby formula, which made them try save it to last way longer than it should and ended up killing their kids from malnutrition.
To hear more about how this conversation started, we reached out to the Reddit user who posed the question, "What are some of the worst corporate blunders or PR disasters in history?", and lucky for us, they were kind enough to share some insight. Apparently, their question was inspired by the fact that it was recently the 10 year anniversary of Microsoft's "disastrous" XBox One reveal event.
According to Business Insider, some of the glaring issues with the XBox One at that time were the fact that it required a constant internet connection, it was not compatible with used games, every Xbox One would come with a Kinect motion sensor, and the Xbox One was priced at $500 when it launched (which was $100 more than the PlayStation 4).
Not the worst certainly but the one that makes me smile whenever I think of it.
I work for a pretty big company with offices in pretty much every country. Billions in profit every year and one of the leaders in our field. About 15 years ago there was an internal announcement that we were going to rebrand in a couple months.
A guy who I vaguely knew was already on his way out the door but before he left he grabbed the domain name that the company would definitely want to have as part of their rebranding but had not yet reserved. So a week later when they finally got around to trying to reserve it they found it occupied with a tiny website that only had a gif of a character dancing with the caption, "I got your domain!"
I have no idea what they had to pay him to get it.
Here’s one happening right now: HBO is rebranding as “Max”.
HBO is a premium brand with decades of quality programming behind it.
Max is generic, vague, and makes me think of soft core p**n.
"I wanted to see what other similarly disastrous corporate/PR blunders happened in history, their impact, and how the company recovered (if at all)," the OP told Bored Panda.
And as far as what causes these disasters, they noted, "I think most blunders are a result of poor planning - from logistics to being ignorant of specific cultures where a promotion happens, or just general lack of awareness to understand when certain ideas or innovations are ready to be received by the public."
In Canada, when the Conservative Party merged with the Reform party they called themselves the Canadian Reform Alliance Party or as all Canadian comedians realized “C**P”. It was hilarious for 48 hours before the changed it. Never forget C**P
Supposedly years ago, there was a Pepsi slogan "Come Alive with Pepsi" that was mistranslated in Chinese as "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Dead."
Blackberry thinking that they are the top in the mobile market so they didn't need to innovate to compete with those new iPhone things from Apple.
Sears dominated the mail order industry for over a century with their catalog. In 1993, they decided that mail order was on the decline and discontinued the catalog. Less than a year later, Jeff Bezos would found Amazon.
One funny one that always springs to mind is the Britain’s Got Talent winner Susan Boyle releasing her first album and her management coming up with a twitter hashtag to promote it: #susanalbumparty
It trended number one but not because of the actual album lol
* Coke making New Coke
* Kodak refusing to go digital believing people would stay true to film
* Toys R Us neglecting their online sales experience
Have you heard of the [Osborne Effect](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect)?
TLDR: Company in 1981 has one of the first home computers on the market, it sounds fantastic and everything. At the launch, CEO says the next version will be so much better.... So everyone decided why buy this version if the next version will be better? We'll wait for V2.
So V1 sold terribly, company folded, there is no V2.
Digiorno trying to make the hashtag "Why I Stayed" be about making pizza at home.
JC Penney tried to eliminate the tons of sales and never-ending discounts on their products by just pricing them at what they would normally be, aiming for a “fair and square” price model. Instead of marking a shirt up to $10 and then having it basically always 40% off, they just priced it at $6, for example. They also ended their prices in solid dollars instead of $0.99 intervals to make it easier to calculate.
No coupons, no sales, but the same price. People always complain about how stuff gets marked up just to get put on sale and how cheap of a gimmick it is, right?
Well turns out people actually love feeling like they’re getting a deal even if they objectively know it’s just set dressing, and JCP lost millions from the strategy and their sales dropped by around a third.
The Ford Pinto's propensity to explode when rear-ended.
And Ford making the business decision not to recall because their "cost benefit analysis" showed that lawsuits for injury would be cheaper.
EMI Music executive telling the Beatles after their audition that EMI wasn't interested because guitar bands were on the way out?
When Game of Thrones botched the most anticipated episode in the series history of one of (the?) biggest shows in history by making it in borderline pitch black. Then explaining themselves by saying people need better TVs….[https://nypost.com/2019/05/01/game-of-thrones-cinematographer-blames-dark-episode-on-bad-tv-settings/amp/](https://nypost.com/2019/05/01/game-of-thrones-cinematographer-blames-dark-episode-on-bad-tv-settings/amp/)
Can't believe the Hoover flights to America promotion from the early 90's hasn't come up yet. They offered a pair of return flights to America worth £600 if you spent £100 or more on their stuff. Turned out people thought £100 for a return flight with a free vacuum cleaner was a hell of a deal and it was a disaster that cost the company millions
Gerald Ratner calling his own company’s (jeweller) products “c**p” and saying that “a prawn sandwich would last longer” than their earrings at a conference. The company’s value fell by £500m and he had to resign.
Trying to decide which was worse: Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal India that killed 4-8k people and injured maybe 100k, or Chiquita (under a former name) overthrowing the legitimate government of Guatemala with help from the CIA.
In the art field there are a lot of bad predatory software that people use (ahem adobe ahem) but one of the most well respected softwares was something called clip studio paint. It was single purchase and had amazing features and is something I personally still use. In the last year the company proceeded to go back on it's word and force you to get a subscription or pay several hundreds for a license, add ai art support (which if you don't know, ai art takes art from real artists for their samples which is a huge no no in the field), and most recently they are restricting offline access to paying customers and locking them out if they don't have a credit card on their account. Company went from having a huge loyal fanbase and one of the best reputations in the entire art field to losing everyone who supported them and now are having a piracy crisis which is encouraged by most artists
The Victorian Taxi Association (Australian) had a 2015 social media marketing based around people sharing their good news stories of using taxis. It took a matter of days for it to be overwhelmed by the not-so-good stories. Turns out rather a lot of people had stories that ranged from hiked up fares and smelly taxies, to out-and-out sexual assaults by cabbies. All now being shared under the campaigns hashtag.
Celebrities singing “imagine” at the beginning of the pandemic.
There was a diet product called "Ayds" before the sound-alike disease. Not at all a blunder, but an unforeseeable, unrecoverable disaster.
I still remember when Dr. Pepper thought they could a) market a specifically 10 calorie soda and b) do so with the slogan "It's Not For Women"
I mean this was 2011, the idea of feminism and antisexism was by no means obscure or fringe. The whole marketing campaign was so bizarre I wonder how on earth a large marketing team looked at blatant, unapologetic sexism and went "yeah sounds great this will sell us lots of soda for sure"
[U.S. Army tweets, "How has serving impacted you."](https://www.npr.org/2019/05/27/727254720/a-u-s-army-tweet-asking-how-has-serving-impacted-you-got-an-agonizing-response). I actually learned about this one watching it unfold in real time on Reddit.
One of the movie directors for the Flash movie basically said " This movie will be so AMAZING you'll forget about all the things Ezra Miller did."
Gillette's toxic masculinity commercial. They lost over 8 billion dollars because they directly attacked their target audience. Good idea