Top 10 marketing mishaps of 2010

No year is complete without a marketing mishap and in 2010 there were plenty to chose from.

Lean Mean Fighting Machine lost the Dr Pepper and Coke Zero accounts
Lean Mean Fighting Machine lost the Dr Pepper and Coke Zero accounts

ITV missed a goal

Goalkeeper Robert Green was not the only one to display a moment of incompetence during England’s opening World Cup match this summer against the USA. As Steven Gerrard scored to give England the lead, 1.5 million of those watching the game on ITV were treated to the sight of an ad for Hyundai rather than the goal. England fans vented their wrath online, with some posters suggesting ITV should hand over the remainder of its allocated games for the tournament to the BBC. ITV issued an "unreserved" apology.

...while the England team missed a sponsor

If the England team was judged on how many times the players had scored with prostitutes, rather than a football, 2010 would have been a far better year for the squad. As it was, while some of the team made the headlines for spectacular performances away from home, those on the pitch were lacklustre to say the least.

This presented something of a headache for The Football Association in its search for a new sponsor, after Nationwide axed its tie to the team. At the time of writing, a replacement sponsor has yet to be secured.

Dr Pepper’s blue period

Dr Pepper was left in a fizz after running a promotion on Facebook that allowed the brand to take over users’ status updates.

The promotion went awry when the post "I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards" appeared on a 14-year-old girl’s Facebook page. Her mother saw the post, with its reference to porn, and complained to Dr Pepper’s owner, Coca-Cola.

At first, the company offered the woman one night’s accommo­dation at a London hotel and theatre tickets. When the mother refused the offer, it pulled the campaign and launched a full investigation into its online advertising.

Lean Mean Fighting Machine, the agency that created the campaign, subsequently lost both the Dr Pepper and Coke Zero ad business. Somewhat unfortunately the activity was part of a Dr Pepper campaign that used the strapline "What’s the worst that could happen?".

BP brand feels spill

On 20 April 2010 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 men and sent millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.


To label the fiasco a "marketing mishap" doesn’t do justice to the huge environ­mental and human cost of the disaster, but there is no doubt that the reputation of Britain’s biggest company was irrevocably damaged. At the time of writing, more than 11,000 people continue to work on clean-up operations in the area.

An official update in October revealed that 93 miles of shoreline were still suffering "moderate-to-heavy" oil pollution and 7% of the Gulf's fishing area remained shut. The saga is set to continue in 2011 when the outcomes of two federal investigations are due.

Nestlé’s bad break

Nestlé faced up to a PR disaster after it exerted legal pressure on YouTube to remove a Greenpeace ad on the site. The ad referred to Nestlé’s Kit Kat brand’s use of palm oil and the effect its production had on the environment, with the strapline "Have a break? Give the orangutan a break".


Greenpeace quickly re-posted the ad on, sending out word on Twitter about Nestlé's heavy-handed tactics.

Ultimately, pulling the video brought greater attention to Greenpeace’s drive to protect the habitat of orangutans. Its response resulted in Nestlé agreeing to drop Indonesian palm-oil producer Sinar Mas Group as a supplier because of its "continued expansion into rain forests" and "critical orangutan habitat".

Toyota back-pedals

This year was without a doubt Toyota's annus horribilis as the world's biggest automotive manufacturer tackled a safety problem with its cars that stretched across the globe. The biggest recall in history, for reasons as varied as faulty window switches and problems with accelerator pedals left Toyota facing a marketing crisis.

In April the firm was fined a record £11m by the US transport department for its tardiness in responding. US transport secretary Ray LaHood said that "by failing to report known safety problems… Toyota put consumers at risk". In February, the car brand launched a dedicated UK campaign to reassure consumers it was taking action to recall the faulty vehicles.

Eurostar derailed

Eurostar’s start to the year was less than stellar as it grappled with the fallout from the breakdown of five trains in the Channel Tunnel. The rail operator’s somewhat inept handling of the situation, sparked a wave of protest on social media channels, which were awash with gripes about its lack of preparation and communication as more than 2000 people were trapped in the Tunnel. Eurostar’s "Little Break" Twitter account, meanwhile, struggled to respond to the protest, as it was set up only to support its marketing.

To its credit, Eurostar’s marketing team was open about the failings of its communi­cations system, having unwittingly contri­buted to the creation of a best-case study in how not to do crisis communications.

MAC gets lost in Mexico

The growing might of social media platforms was clearly illustrated when cosmetics brand MAC was forced to pull a controversial collection created in partnership with designer Rodarte.

Ciudad Juarez

The range was said to have been inspired by the Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez, which has become infamous for the high number of women murdered there. After the issue was taken up by beauty bloggers, MAC apologised for the branding and said it would give some of the profits to charity.

It eventually opted not to ship the collection at all and donated all the projected profits to organisations that help women in the border city.

Mind the Gap logo

Critics said it hurt their eyes and the web was awash with scornful comments when Gap unveiled a change to its corporate identity. The US clothes retailer, subscribing to the idea that any buzz is good buzz, initially responded that it was "thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding".


Then the company opened up the debate further by letting anyone compete to design another new logo. However, users posted on Gap’s Facebook page urging people not to participate, on the grounds that the company was simply trying to get free designs.

Primark bikini

Primark hit the headlines in March after it was forced to pull padded bikini tops made for seven- to eight-year-old girls from the shelves. The clothes store was accused of the "premature sexualisation" of children, a theme picked up on by David Cameron.

Primark apologized and promised to donate all profits from sales of the bikini to a children’s charity.

The 'Best-off Being Forgotten' campaign of the year: The Conservative Party

It must have seemed like such a good idea at the time. Run an outdoor ad campaign using a big picture of leader David Cameron's face, the Conservative Party's biggest electoral asset, to reassure voters that the Tories would not be cutting spending on the NHS.

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, the campaign backfired spectacularly. Rumours quickly spread that the image of Cameron with unbelievably baby-smooth skin had been airbrushed, and this, rather than the campaign's message, became the talking point.

Meanwhile, spoofs of the ad were being generated at an alarming rate, aided by The site provided users with a template of the ad allowing them to create subversive versions using their own words.

Soon spoofs were circulating widely and then the mainstream media began to cover them.

As the old saying goes, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Once the election was over, Euro RSCG London, widely cited as the agency that had created the ad, issued a statement saying it had had nothing to do with it.

Unsubstantiated rumours now abound that Steve Hilton, the Conservative's director of strategy, 'knocked it up on his laptop'.

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