8 Greatest Failed Marketing Campaigns of All Time

‘To err is human’ is a very famous quote. Yes! We are humans and we do mistakes. It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO of multi-millionaire organisation or a small businessman, things can go wrong. The world has witnessed many failed marketing campaigns. These marketing blunders can be helpful to a budding entrepreneur who want to start their journey. Here are some failed marketing campaigns in India.

Besides the fact that a large group of people give there out of the box ideas and burn the midnight oil for campaigning of a product, there are some failed marketing campaigns. The main reason behind this article is to tell you that doing mistakes is common and will be useful only if you don’t repeat it and learn from it. So, here we have listed of some famous brands which faced the failed marketing campaigns in India.

Before proceeding, you can check out this Case Study of Why Startups Fail to reduce your chances of failure.

8 Greatest Failed Marketing Campaigns

Failure of Gillette

Gillette is a famous brand but when Gillette launched Vector razor in India, it is one of the biggest failed marketing campaigns in India. Here is what was their mistake. Before launching vector they did some market research. They found that in India men had thicker and longer hair as compared to Americans. Keeping that in mind to unclog the razor while shaving they included a plastic piece that could slide down.

The biggest mistake of Gillette was that they haven't researched in India. They had researched with Indian students at MIT. So, they missed the biggest problem of Indian men, that is access to running water while shaving. That is why unclogging the Vector razor while shaving isn't possible. Ultimately they end up with failure.

Hoover's Free Flight Loss of $50 Million

A common practice of giving an offer to sell those products which are old-fashioned, not in use and gathering dust in godowns. This American based company which sold washing machines and vacuums began with a marketing promotion in 1992 with an offer to gift trip tickets to Europe on the purchase of $100 or more.

The company wasn’t expecting a huge response but they were well adorned by a flood of customers all across the world. This led to a whopping loss of $50 million. This shows that even if you want to lure the customer by giving an offer or a discount, make it realistic. This was one of the biggest failed marketing campaigns of all time.

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Red Lobster's All-You-Can-Eat Promotion Failure

You might have witnessed many restaurants where if you finish a special dish within a time-limit, you get free food subscription for some days. This leads to a good attraction of customers because very few can complete this challenge. In 2003, Red Lobster also thought this and launched a promotional campaign named "Endless Crab".

The idea behind this was that Red Lobster was sure about it that people in America would either not be able to sit longer just to eat or they would not be able to finish more than one plate or so. Because Crab is delicious but it is salty and rubbery so it's hard to consume.

But here is the catch, Red Lobster never met Americans and after a few weeks of the launch, they realised that they were running out of money. Meaning that they were losing money on each order. Because average customers were able to eat at least 2 dozen. Not only this the US government also capped many crabs hauled from the ocean. This left the company with a net loss of $3.3 million.

Failure of Tata Nano

For a middle-class Indian family, buying a brand-new car meant only three options: - Maruti 800, Alto or WagonR. Tata with a dream to provide the happiness of buying 4-wheeler to every family, came out with the cheapest car – NANO worth only one lakh rupees. In India, if anyone buys a car or any luxurious things that means they are successful.

When Tata Nano was launched it considered as "the cheapest car" and the word "cheap" troubled it to grow. Because the problem is buying a car means a lot for Indians even if it's is cheap and that's why Nano failed. It became one of the greatest failed marketing campaigns in India.

Failure of Tata Nano - Failed Marketing Campaigns in India
Failure of Tata Nano

Lifelock – The Story Of An Irony

Lifelock is an American company that provides identity theft protection. It was co-founded in 2005 by Todd Davis and Robert J. Maynard. When Lifelock began promoting its services in 2006, they were so confident in their product that, as a symbol of trust, CEO Todd Davis’ Social Security number was displayed on its advertisement.

In 2007, their security system was breached, and Todd Davis himself became a victim of identity theft. The crime was discovered when a company called on his wife’s cell phone regarding an unpaid debt. Upon investigation, it was found that someone used Todd Davis’ identity and obtained a loan of $500.

Four months later, Davis’ identity was stolen again. The person who stole it used it to open an AT&T/Cingular wireless account and racked up a sum of $2,390 which remains unpaid. Later, Davis’ identity was stolen 11 more times resulting in losing the trust of people in his company.

McDonald’s Free Treat Offer Failure

In 1984 Olympics, McDonald's offered free burger, snacks and soft drinks for every medal US win. It worked like this, if a customer buys anything from McDonald they would get a scratch-card and if the US wins the customer will get free food. The motto was "if the U.S. wins, you win!".

But they didn't realize that two strong countries Germany and Russia were part of that sports event. The result was something like this, that year, the US won 174 medals with 83 gold. After that McDonald's realized that company faced one of the greatest failed marketing campaign.

KFC Free Chicken Offer Failure

Whenever we think of any fast food restaurant picture of KFC comes in our mind. But there was a marketing blunder done by KFC. There was a popular TV show named Oprah. On which KFC started an offer, they promised viewers a free coupon for a 2-piece chicken meal with two individual sides and a biscuit. The only condition was that the users have to download the coupon from Oprah website.

KFC hasn't done any research before the promotion and here is what happened. Millions of people downloaded 10.5 million coupons. People from all over the US rushed to the KFC counter to get their free treat. KFC gave away almost $42 million free food, still couldn’t deliver what they had offered. They even were unable to fulfil the offer for all the users. After that, they had apologized to Oprah and the customers.

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Disaster of Panasonic

There is a famous quote, "Think before you speak". But sometimes we use some word that is not appropriate for that moment. Realization comes after anything is done. Similarly, Panasonic which is a famous electronics brand done this mistake. When they launched a new PC they named it "Woody - the Internet pecker". Woody means male erection.

But they didn't realise it and even renamed it as "Touch Woody" to highlight the touch screen feature of the PC. This is one of the greatest slung blunder done by a brand. This became one of the biggest failed marketing campaign in India.


Even after these failed marketing campaigns, these brands are doing well because they have learned from their mistake. That is what every human being and all the businesses should do. Don't repeat your mistake, learn from them and keep improving. And always remember that every failure is a door to a new opportunity or idea.


Why do marketing campaigns fail?

Most of the marketing campaigns fail due to a lack of research before the product launch. Other factors that can also lead to failed marketing campaigns are not focusing on the right direction, copying from others, budget, and timing.

What products failed in the market?

8 Greatest Failed Marketing Campaigns of All Time:

  • Failure of Gillette
  • Hoover's Free Flight Loss of $50 Million
  • Red Lobster's All-You-Can-Eat Promotion Failure
  • Failure of Tata Nano
  • Lifelock – The Story of an Irony
  • McDonald’s Free Treat Offer Failure
  • KFC Free Chicken Offer Failure
  • Disaster of Panasonic

What are some marketing campaigns?

Example of some marketing campaigns are:

  • “Absolutely, Positively Overnight” – FedEx.
  • Idea cellular: What an Idea.
  • Vodafone 'ZooZoos'
  • Fortune Oil- Ghar Ka Khana.
  • “Just Do It” – Nike.
  • Ariel Matic – #ShareTheLoad.
  • Fevikwik- Todo Nahi Jodo.
  • Surf Excel- Daag acche hain.
  • Coca Cola – Small world.
  • Meri Maggi- Me and Meri Maggi.

What are the most successful marketing campaigns?

Some of the most successful marketing campaigns of All time:

  • Idea cellular: What an Idea.
  • Vodafone 'ZooZoos'
  • Fortune Oil- Ghar Ka Khana.
  • Ariel Matic – #ShareTheLoad.
  • Fevikwik- Todo Nahi Jodo.
  • Surf Excel- Daag acche hain.
  • Coca Cola – Small world.
  • Meri Maggi- Me and Meri Maggi.
  • The "Share a Coke" campaign, Coca Cola.
  • The “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove.

How do you know when a campaign has failed?

When a company or brand does not receive the response that they were expecting after marketing their campaign, or when a company loses money from a campaign instead of earning a profit, then they realize that their marketing campaign has failed.

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About Niku Mandal

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