Think Clowns Are Scary? Check Out These Marketing Nightmares

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

With Halloween just around the corner, creepy clowns are rampaging around the UK. It’s pretty scary. But it’s not creepy circus characters keeping us up at night, these haunting marketing hiccups are:


Do we need to say more?

Well, we’re going to tell you the background behind this horrifying fail anyway.

We always double-proof every piece of content we produce, and this hashtag is a prime example of why you should do this. Back in 2012, Susan Boyle was preparing to launch her latest album and the singer’s PR team had a whole campaign planned out. Unfortunately, the accompanying promotional hashtag could be read more than one way.

Coca Cola’s ‘Spunk Water’

Words often mean different things to different people and this can be especially so when breaching international borders to launch a product in another country. That was the case for Coca Cola when in 2003 it tried to launch its line of bottled water, Dasani, here in the UK.

The online marketing campaign was launched with slogans such as ‘full of spunk’, ‘bottled spunk’ and ‘can’t live without spunk’.

But wait, it gets worse. The campaigns also contained messages suggesting the ‘spunk water’ was something to “enjoy… at home, at the gym, at work and in between”, that it was “vitally refreshing and abundantly available” and was a “way of everyday life”. Cringing yet?

Of course, the company intended to use the word to mean ‘pep’ or ‘energy’, but the damage was done.
However, after an extensive rebrand and a fiddle with the ingredients (yes, there was controversy regarding this too) Coca Cola’s water is now a familiar product in our shopping baskets. Its new name? Glaceau Smartwater.

Hoover’s Free Flights

Incentives like free gifts or discounts can be a great way of improving sales during a quiet period, But add-ons and freebies shouldn’t cost your company more than the product purchased. That’s common sense – simple common sense.

Hoover made this mistake back in 1992 when it launched a campaign promising two round-trip tickets to Europe with every purchase worth £100 or more. Unsurprisingly, tens of thousands of people hit the shops in order to take advantage of this lucrative deal and the company was eventually left with tens of millions of pounds of debt.

Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux

Back to the word blunders now and we’re going to jump in our time machines and travel back to the 1970s when another vacuum brand, Electrolux, launched a campaign that read ‘Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux’.

This made perfect sense here in the UK and in many countries around the world, but the US population use the term ‘sucks’ in another way. The result? A huge loss in sales.

Panasonic’s Touch Woody

Do you remember Woody the Woodpecker and his laugh? Well, back in the 90s, Panasonic decided to capitalise on the character’s popularity by using him in their ad to market the launch of its new PC. Panasonic named the computer ‘Woody – The Internet Pecker’ and also used the innuendo-ridden slogan ‘Touch Woody’ to advertise its touchscreen capabilities.

Luckily, the company’s chiefs caught on just before the campaign was fully-launched and the firm was saved embarrassment by renaming the product the day before it was released.

Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave

It is alleged that when Pepsi began expanding its market to China in the 60s, the drinks brand launched a marketing campaign that read ‘Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation’.

Except there was one problem. The message got lost in translation and what the tagline actually said was “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Of course, 50 years on, there is very little proof that this actually happened, so it could all be smoke and mirrors. However, if it is true it’s certainly horrifying enough to make this Halloween shortlist.

Marketing Doesn’t Have to be Frightful

Avoid these mistakes by checking out our range of digital marketing services or get on the old dog and bone and contact us today or tweet on @_libertydigital.


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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Sophie has over 6 years of experience in the social media and content space, working in both in-house organisations and agencies. She has worked with exciting established brands in her time such as Campari, Aperol Spritz, Oppo Ice Cream and PayPal Australia. She enjoys the content creation process – from mapping out the shot and…

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