Horrible PR Campaigns PostWith the rapid growth of social media some of the largest companies in the world have been attempting to take a more creative approach to the internet with their brand marketing campaigns.  These campaigns have had their failures, and it’s time to recognize them publicly to remind us on what not to do.

Now the purpose of this is to not humiliate these companies but to actually learn by their mistakes.  Although it is refreshing to hear that fortune 500 companies have their failures to remind us that even the best marketing professionals in the industry aren’t perfect.

1.) General Motors- In March of 2006 to help promote the Chevy Tahoe, GM launched the online PR campaign called  “Chevy Tahoe’s Roll Your Own Commercial Viral Marketing Campaign”.  At that time with the rapid growth of You Tube and during the early childhood years of Facebook along with the midlife crisis of MySpace, it seemed like a wonderful idea to have others make their own home video commercial about a Tahoe.

The campaign soon turned into an assault on the Tahoe with videos popping up attacking the vehicles as a gas guzzling, safety challenged ego enhancement for environmentally irresponsible dorks.  After a couple of weeks, GM eliminated the campaign but many of the videos still get views on YouTube to this day.

2.) Samsung- Although this happened in Australia, it has now been seen all over the world. Last month Samsung hired a bunch of people to protest outside of an apple store in Australia. They made the protest confusing by having the protestors yell “wake up” while holding “wake up” signs, wearing all black and coming out of a bus that says “wake up”.

Everyone is still awkwardly confused and sadly this doesn’t help brand a company in a good way. If your marketing to confuse the public…This video has now been seen all of the world, not good PR at all.

3.) BP- During the great Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico BP decided to spend millions of  dollars on commercials and advertising letting everyone know that they were cleaning up the Gulf. Unfortunately while the millions were being spent, businesses all along the coast were suffering because of the oil spill and BP was doing nothing to help those businesses out. The campaign left an oily taste in the mouth of many residents along the Gulf coast and will be questioned for years if it was actually good PR.

4.) Facebook- Last year Facebook hired the giant  public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to plant news articles promoting a supposed privacy problem with google. Writers for Burson, Jim Goldman and John Mercurio contacted a number of journalists proclaiming that Google is collecting , storing and mining millions of people’s personal information from a number of different online services and sharing it without the knowledge, consent or control of the people involved.

This offensive attack seemed to be working until Newsweeks Dan Lyons gained evidence that singled out Facebook, who then claimed it was true.  Then the story really went Viral.

When planning out a PR campaign it’s so important to consider the unexpected. Campaigns will always have the potential to back fire and the risk always needs to understood and considered.  If GM really understood the bad reputation the Tahoe had among the public they wouldn’t have asked the public to make a commercial about the vehicle. If Facebook really considered the potential of their offensive attack leaking they might have really thought twice. Offensive attacks on other companies usually will never work, just look at Samsungs offensive attack, we’re still confused. The moral of the story is to really think things out, plan for the unexpected then consider if the PR campaign is really worth it.


Aubrey Phelps is currently an account manager at PRMarketing.com, her background experience includes four years of SEO experience and two years of online PR experience.

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