Archive for the ‘Bad Marketing’ Category

You may have noticed that a lot of companies use a mascot to sell their product to the masses. Energizer has the Energizer Bunny. Kellogg’s has Tony the Tiger. Geico has that gecko with the not-quite-convincing British accent. Lamisil, a medical product designed to combat foot infections, decided they shouldn’t be left out of the loop on these things, and spent several months and quite a bit of money trying to come up with a mascot of their own. The end result: Digger the Dematophyte.

He’s a toenail infection. His physical appearance is somewhere between malicious goblin and Pikachu, and he can be seen in old TV commercials (still available on Youtube). He shows the viewer the danger of improper foot care, not to mention having a three-martini lunch before designing a corporate mascot, by peeling back discolored toenails and gleefully crawling inside. “All I want,” he says suggestively, “is to get in here.” But look! You can stop this nasty villain by applying the miracle product that is Lamisil!

Much to the company’s surprise, the most common response when seeing this commercial was not to rush out to the nearest drug store and purchase a tube; it was to scream in terror and put one’s eyes out with the nearest sharp implement. The rest tended to go to court and point out on the anatomically correct doll where the bad mascot touched them. People, oddly enough, do not seem to want to see animated toenail infections dancing on their TV screens.


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Burger King once had a brilliant idea for an ad campaign – “Where’s Herb?” TV commercials ran for weeks touting the catch phrase, telling viewers that if they managed to spot Herb, they would win a cool $5000. There was just one problem: they didn’t tell anyone what Herb looked like. For weeks, fast food aficionados had to harass each other in restaurants, asking “Are you Herb? No? Are you Herb? How about you?” It was eventually revealed during the Superbowl that Herb was a complete dork in tight clothes who had never tried a Whopper before.

By that point, most of the interest had departed. People didn’t care about Herb anymore, or his obnoxious suit, or the fact that it was kind of creepy for a middle-aged white guy to be hanging out in Burger King all the time but not actually buying the food. Pretty much everyone was also sick of the billboards and commercials, which just wouldn’t let up. The ad campaign cost the corporation $40 million in the end, and probably drove off more customers than it managed to bring in. Herb’s career was not completely over, though; he would go on to become a guest timekeeper for Wrestlemania 2.

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Viagra is a somewhat difficult product to make commercials for. This isn’t because people aren’t buying the little blue pill, but because most folks don’t want to consider the implications of its use. Having a bunch of middle-aged men sit around and nod at each other suggestively while singing “Viva Viagra” (to the tune of Viva Las Vegas) makes the casual viewer shudder in horror. To say nothing of the disturbing implications of Bob Dole saying “Down boy!” to his dog while it barks eagerly at a scantily-clad Britney Spears parading across the television screen.

Unlike other marketing, this badness stems directly from the product itself. Viagra has been designed for one use, and one use only – so that your grandparents can do things that, if you stop to think about it, will make you cover your ears and start shouting “LALALALALA” at the top of your lungs. As such, as long as Viagra is advertised on TV, it will de facto be horrible. You may want to start a hedge fund to pay for the many years of therapy that will be required for the commercials you accidentally glimpse before you successfully change the channel.

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Mentos, also known as “The Fresh Maker”, is a brand of spherical candy that can be found in supermarkets and convenience stores across the nation. Available in rolls of fourteen, the product comes in such flavors as mint, strawberry, green apple, orange, grape, pineapple, lemon yogurt, and black licorice. Far more memorable than the candy, however, is the series of commercials used to advertise it. They feature overeager young men and women solving life’s problems through excessive cleverness, and tend to be utterly bizarre in their presentation.

For example: A businessman, presumably on his way to close down an orphanage, accidentally sits upon a park bench that has been recently painted. Calamity! The man stops to take a bite of some delicious Mentos candy, and a brilliant idea strikes him. He decides to roll around on the bench like a fish out of water, thereby getting smudgy white stripes on the rest of his suit that match the original stains. This makes him look like even more of an idiot, and to celebrate this happy fact he takes another bite of Mentos and smiles enthusiastically for the camera.

American viewers who watch the TV commercials are often completely mystified as to just what the hell is going on in. The odd behavior can probably be explained by the fact that the candy comes from the Netherlands, a sad nation which has long been plagued by soccer balls being kicked into weddings and unsympathetic security guards who won’t let teenagers backstage at concerts. Riding through the baggage claim because you’ve inadvertently packed too much luggage is simply an unfortunate aspect of life there.

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Six Flags is probably one of the most successful amusement park chains in the world. They own twenty-one separate properties, which include Great America, Sea World, and Magic Mountain. They’ve been around since 1961, with the opening of Six Flags Over Texas, but they are perhaps best known for their mascot: a hideously decrepit old man in a tuxedo and red bow tie who grins fiendishly while dancing non-stop to “We like to Party!” as it plays in the background. He also devours the souls of small children who dare to come too close.

Now, we’re all in favor of hideously decrepit old men, but this particular octogenarian is quite literally the stuff of nightmares. He looks like something out of a horror movie, and even if a person has the sudden urge to visit an amusement park, this desire is immediately usurped by the viewer frantically lunging for the remote control whenever the Creepy Six Flags Guy appears on the screen. Just seeing him dance for twenty seconds if enough to drive most people into a murder-suicide pact. Probably not the response that the owners of the theme parks were looking for.

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Superheroes suffered a secret shame through the late seventies and early eighties. In between stopping supervillains from taking over the world and rescuing cats trapped up in trees, they hawked a wide variety of Hostess food products in the back pages of their comic books. Fruit Pies, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Cup Cakes, as long as it was filled with sugar and guaranteed to bring about juvenile diabetes, you could expect Captain America to offer the snack for sale while standing next to a huge American flag.

The advertisements came in the form of one-page comics in which Batman (or some other caped crusader) stopped a crime through judicious use of the food products. The Mummy, in the above ad, vows revenge against those who violated his tomb. He’s about to trap the offending professor and his daughter in a cave, when the Dark Knight appears and tosses some Hostess Twinkies in his path. The Mummy can’t resist the moist sponge cake and creamy filling, and so foregoes the murder attempt in exchange for sustenance that his three thousand year-old body has little chance of processing.

Many of the ads bordered on the completely absurd. The Fantastic Four are attacked by an afroed woman with a giant hair dryer in one who falls in love with Johnny Storm after he gives her some Hostess Cup Cakes. Thor fights astronaut hillbillies in another, stopping their assault with carefully placed Fruit Pies. The important factor with each of these comics was the strangely hypnotic power of Hostess Snack products. No one, not even Plastic Man himself, could stand fast against their delicious flavor. It’s somewhat surprising that the government never took the treats off the shelves and horded them for national security purposes.

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