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Friday the 13th Special: Bad Luck Branding


Happy Harvest Moon and Friday 13th, everybody! I thought this would be a fun time to talk about some of the the most cursed campaigns in branding and business I've seen.


1. Lays WOW Chips.


Wow, oh wow. The marketing was great. The idea was great...in the 90s, fat was branded as the worst part of a diet, and so anything low in fat, high in flavor was touted as a miracle. Enter the WOW chip. Containing Olestra, a "fat alternative," people were delighted by the notion of fatless snacking and bought the chips up by the score.


Unfortunately, Olestra caused numerous accidents of the lavatorial kind. So many pants were soiled and so many reputations publicly tarnished that they had to begin labeling warnings on their bags, which was an effective deathnail in the brand. Lays bounced back, but WOW chips are only spoken of as a past embarrassment.


2. New Coke


If a bunch of CMOs got together to tell spooky campfire tales, new coke would be the story that makes them stay awake all night. Coca Cola was making money hand over fist, and decided, for some reason, to spend a fortune generating hype for a replacement formula for their goose that was laying golden eggs.


And in 1985, people bought New Coke. And they hated it. The backlash was so big that some even theorized it was a ploy to get people to buy more Classic Coke when the re-released it. Interestingly, this year Coke released New Coke again due to the popularity of 1985-centered Stranger Things and people seem to have palates more geared to the maligned soft drink in 2019 more so than in 1985.


3. Heineken


Last year Heineken decided to emphazise the "lightness" of their beer in all the wrong ways. They shot a commercial where a bartender slides a beer past 3 black customers to a white woman, with the tagline: "sometimes, lighter is better."


Chance the rapper vocally reacted, as he thought this was racist for some reason...what could possibly have led him to such a crazy notion?


Oh, wait. Now I see it.


4. E.A.


E.A. Games has had a lot of snafus lately, but when they promoted their Godfather game by sending out free brass knuckles with copies to game journalists, they really broke the mold. And the law.


Brass knuckles are illegal in many states. Also...they are weapons. Chips that make you crap your pants and playfully racist beer I can understand somewhat, but who thought this was a good idea?


5. Gillette


I don't even have to mention what it is. You know what happened. Was it a bad idea? 8 Billion dollars says yes. That's Dr. Evil levels of money lost.


Hope you enjoyed the list, and I think next week will be some of the campaigns I think are the most incredibly good....the yang to this article's yin, so to speak.


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