Recently, I watched the Netflix docuseries Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?, which is about a student who found a loophole in a ’90s Pepsi commercial that would allow him to buy a $23 million harrier jet for just $700,000 worth of “Pepsi points.” I won’t spoil it, but the story is surprisingly captivating. It got me wondering what other big mistakes companies have made over the years.
Redditor u/LeatherFruitPF asked, “What are some of the worst corporate blunders or PR disasters in history?”
Here are 17 of the top responses:
“Gerald Ratner [the former CEO of the British jewelry company Ratners Group, which is now Signet Jewelers] calling his own company’s product ‘total crap.’ The company’s value fell by millions, and he had to resign.”
“When the singer Susan Boyle had a new album out [in 2012], they got the hashtag #Susanalbumparty trending to promote it. It was supposed to say ‘Susan Album Party,’ but instead, we all just saw ‘Su’s Anal Bum Party.'”
“In Canada, when the Conservative Party merged with the Reform Party, they called themselves the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, or as all Canadian comedians realized, ‘CCRAP.’ It was hilarious for 48 hours before they changed it. Never forget CCRAP.”
“The Microsoft crew having a ‘funeral’ for the iPhone and the Blackberry outside of their headquarters to celebrate that amazing Windows phone.”
“DiGiorno trying to make the hashtag #WhyIStayed [which was used by survivors of domestic violence to bring awareness to reasons people stay in abusive relationships] be about making pizza at home.”
“Can’t believe the Hoover free flights promotion from the early ’90s hasn’t come up yet. They offered a pair of return flights to America [or Europe] 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.”
“When Game of Thrones botched the most anticipated episode of one of the biggest shows in history by making it in borderline pitch black. Then explaining themselves by saying people need better TVs.”
“[When Pepsi first began selling its products in China, they used the] slogan ‘Come Alive with Pepsi,’ which was mistranslated in Chinese as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.'”
“The Pepsi Number Fever promotion in the Philippines went really terribly! They basically never recovered in the market there.”
“When the US Army tweeted, ‘How has serving impacted you?’ [and many service members and veterans in their replies shared their experiences with trauma, mental health issues, and assault].”
How has serving impacted you?
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019
@USArmy / @FortBenning / Via Twitter: @USArmy
—u/keepcalmscrollon[In response, the US Army tweeted, “To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.” They also shared the number to the Veterans Crisis Line.]
“Have you heard of the Osborne Effect? In 1981, the Osborne Computer Corporation had one of the first home computers on the market. It sounded fantastic and everything. At the launch, the CEO said 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, the company folded, and there was no V2.”
“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.”
“Target’s expansion into Canada [in 2012]. Collapsed in two years and cost $7 billion.”
“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 founded Amazon.”
And finally: “When U2 made us all have their album on our iPods [and iPhones].”
What other major corporate and PR blunders do you remember? Share them in the comments!
Some responses have been edited for length/clarity.