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Quite often, people focus on the marketing campaigns that were wildly successful to try and imitate them. But sometimes, it’s just as educational (and much more entertaining) to watch the campaigns that went down in flames. 

New England Patriots try to thank their fans, but accidentally promotes racism

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It was the noblest of intentions. The New England Patriots wanted to do something special because they reached one million fans on Twitter. They set up an automatic system where anyone who retweeted the image was sent an image of a Patriots Jersey with their Twitter handle in place of the name. This would automatically tweet from the Patriots’ Twitter account.

What went wrong?

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Predictably, the Internet is not a friendly place. Someone quickly made an incredibly racist and offensive Twitter handle and retweeted the photo. The digital jersey was automatically created, and then tweeted out from the official Patriots Twitter handle. Not a good day for their PR team.

DiGiorno makes light of abusive relationships by using the wrong hashtag

Not every marketing campaign needs a big budget behind it to crash and burn spectacularly. Frozen pizza company DiGiorno learned this the hard way when they jumped on the hashtag #WhyIStayed to make a simple tweet. Seems innocent enough, right? Right?

What went wrong?

Always do your hashtag research, especially if it’s one you’re not familiar with.

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Since DiGiorno didn’t do their research, they didn’t realize that #WhyIStayed is a hashtag in support of women who stayed in abusive relationships. Many quickly pointed out their mistake and sent DiGiorno into full damage control mode. To their credit, they quickly apologized to everyone with personalized messages, so it didn’t hurt the company too much.

Jägermeister tries to have a pool party, ends up poisoning everyone

Jägermeister wanted everyone to know just how cool their product was, so they threw a massive pool party in Leon, Mexico. It seemed like a great way for the company to have fun with their customers and solidify Jägermeister’s positioning as a party drink.

What went wrong?

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To make the party even better, an event planner organizer had the great idea of pouring liquid nitrogen into the pool. The liquid nitrogen had a chemical reaction with the pool water and transformed into a poisonous fog. Those unlucky enough to be caught inside the pool had difficulty breathing and a few were quickly knocked out.

In the end, eight people were hospitalized and one fell into in a long coma.

Apple and U2 give away free music and cause a PR firestorm

Who wants free stuff? Everybody!

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It was a safe assumption from both Apple and U2. Apple CEO Tim Cook went up on stage with Bono to announce that U2’s newest album, Songs of Innocence, would be given for FREE to all five million iTunes users! Apple would be seen as a wonderful and generous company, and U2 would get a ton of publicity. It seemed like a perfect win/win situation.

What went wrong?

Unfortunately for Apple, not everyone wants to have free music on their iPhones. Many people were surprised, or worse, annoyed, that their iPhones had automatically downloaded U2’s album without their permission. Instead of being seen as generous, Apple was harshly criticized for being intrusive.

By the end of the campaign, there were only 6,000 extra sales of Songs of Innocence. What about the royalty costs for Apple? 100 million. Ouch.

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