The Ten Biggest Event Marketing Fails Of 2013

Last Updated on August 21, 2021

Well folks, we can finally bid farewell to 2013. Before we really kick off the New Year, let’s first take a look back at some of the biggest event marketing fails of 2013. In the world of marketing and event management (which are rapidly converging on one another), there were some positively titanic botches, many of which will be remembered for years to come. The fiascos we’re going to look at today represent mistakes that no event management professional in their right mind should make.

Among them, there is one common thread: the feeling that there are a few marketing and event management professionals out there who should really consider a career change.

1. LG’s Twenty-Gun Trip To The Hospital

Back in August, Korean manufacturer LG decided to host a public giveaway to promote one of its new G2 smartphones. Instead of just hosting a raffle, however, the event marketing folks at LG decided to get creative—they’d release 100 helium-filled balloons into the air, with a voucher for a new phone in each one. You see where this is going right?

The crowd surged forward, pulling out BB guns, knives, and a host of other improvised weapons; all were intend on popping the balloons. The event quickly devolved into a riot which LG’s understaffed security detail was ill-equipped to manage. The end result was that some twenty people were hospitalized netting them one of the most painful event marketing fails of 2013.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

First off, don’t skimp on security: if you’re going to be hosting an event, proper security is a must, particularly if you’re planning to manage a large crowd of people. Second, make sure you’ve mentally gone through everything that could possibly go wrong before an event. It’s clear that no one at LG really did.

2. The Amy’s Boutique And Bakery Meltdown

If you watch Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare, you’ll remember this one. For those who don’t know what the show’s about, it stars legendary chef Gordon Ramsay as he attempts to turn ailing and failing restaurants into overnight successes. One such locale proved beyond even his considerable abilities: Amy’s Boutique & Bakery. The two owners proved so abrasive to Ramsay that he eventually walked out.

The fiasco didn’t end there. What followed was one of the most spectacular Facebook meltdowns in the history of the platform. Either Amy or Samy (perhaps both) took the helm of their business’s Facebook page, and began fighting fire with fire, responding to inflammatory comments with greater and greater bile. Eventually, after the smoke cleared, they turned around and tried to say the whole thing transpired because their Facebook was hacked. Right.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

There are a few things. First, if you’re going to sign your organization on for an event, conference, or show of any sort, you need to understand what you’re going to be doing there. Amy and Samy clearly didn’t. Second, if you’re not managing an event or brand’s social media page yourself, make sure whoever’s doing so knows how to deal with trolls. Hint: it doesn’t involve profanity laden religious rants.

3. JP Morgan’s Q&A Is Cancelled

JP Morgan—yes, that JP Morgan—decided in November it was going to host a Q&A session via Twitter, putting its top executive Jimmy Lee at the helm to field any questions users might have for the firm. Unfortunately, after being hit was a barrage of humiliation and abuse, the financial giant quickly backed down, admitting the Q&A was an extremely bad idea given the low esteem in which it was held online. Turns out, no one was actually interested in talking to one of the organizations that broke the American economy. Who knew?

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

Events and marketing campaigns are a great way to boost brand awareness and goodwill, but if you’re nursing a broken brand, they will not save you. In some cases, they might actually make things worse. You need to be aware of public opinion before you set out to connect with the consumer.

4. Epicurious And The Boston Bombings

Someone at Epicurious is probably out of a job, they did not just an event marketing fail—but a career fail. The social media manager at the helm of that organization decided, on the day of the Boston Bombings, to try to use the crisis as a marketing stunt. The reaction to such insensitive behavior was predictable. The brand sheepishly apologized for its tastelessness shortly afterwards.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

If you’re managing a twitter account, whether it’s for a brand or campaign, think before you tweet. As a general rule, you should never try to use a tragedy for your brand’s benefit. It’s fine to share your condolences, but don’t take it farther than that.

5. Ryanair’s CEO Tries Too Hard To Get Friendly

In yet another shocking example of poor judgement, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary hopped on Twitter for a live Q&A session with his brand’s customers, at which point he promptly committed sexual harassment. One of the first questions posed to him was put forth by a young woman, and his response—rather than answering her question—was to respond with “Nice pic. Phroaaarr! MOL.’ O’Leary continued acting more like a resident of 4chan than a corporate executive, engaging in banter with hordes of disgruntled customers and gleefully making reference to his company’s terrible brand image.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

It should be quite clear that O’Leary—though he certainly thought he was connecting with his customers—was acting like an unprofessional git. This whole snafu drives home a very simple concept: you need to be personable without dropping your professionalism.

You need to be personable without dropping your professionalism.

6. Spread The Cheer Gets Lots Of Jeers

Starbucks decided to host a Twitter campaign known as “Spread The Cheer” last month. It set up an automated system in which any tweet with the hashtag #spreadthecheer tacked onto it would appear on a big screen at the Natural History Museum. Unfortunately, they decided they didn’t need someone to sift through the tweets before they went live—they just set up a moderation filter.

Guess what happened next?

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

If you’re going to use social media (or really, any technology) at any of your events, best be sure you understand how it actually works. Otherwise, you’re bound to find yourself embarrassed, particularly if you’re running a campaign that makes use of hashtags, which are notorious for getting hijacked.  And of course, they should have used Tweetwall for this, which has full moderation.

7. HMV’s Marketing Director Doesn’t Know Twitter

Back at the beginning of last year, HMV laid off a large volume of its employees. The employees weren’t exactly pleased with that, and one of them—who happened to have access to the Twitter account of the organization—took to the microblogging site to vent their displeasure. Though HMV eventually regained control of the account and deleted the offending Tweets, whoever was responsible for hijacking it managed to out some pretty embarrassing details.

The worst of them? “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?’”


What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

Control access to your social media feeds. At all times, you need to know who can access Twitter, Facebook, or whatever other social networks your brand happens to use. The fewer the people with a password, the better.

8. Pepsi’s Stint With Voodoo

Over in Sweden, Pepsi released a set of Facebook ads which featured a voodoo doll depicting Portugese star Cristiano Ronaldo being subjected to a whole host of violent acts. These included getting its head crushed in, being run over by a train, and being turned into a pincushion. The viral ads inspired widespread hatred of the Pepsi brand, and the organization was forced to take it down after a Facebook group vowing to boycott the organization gained 100,000 fans in a single day.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

Honestly? I don’t even know what to say here. To be frank, Pepsi should have known better than to do this. They fully understood the fervor football (soccer) inspires in its fans, and they still went forward with the ill-advised campaign. So, understand the people you’re marketing to or running an event for, I suppose.

9. Obamacare Promotes Brosurance

A pair of nonprofits based out of Colorado decided that the best way to promote Obamacare was through keg stands, Ryan Gosling, and birth control pills. One of the ads even uses the term “brosurance.” Apparently, they’re supposed to cover the young adult, minority, and female demographic.

The ads have been called “cringeworthy” by both proponents and opponents of Obamacare. They’ve certainly raised awareness. They’ve certainly gotten people talking, and they’re definitely raising awareness of the initiative—but they’re doing so for the wrong reason. More than anything else, it’s pretty clear that the people responsible for these ads are really out of touch.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

Two words: market research. That’s really all there is to be said here. The people responsible for the Brosurance campaign clearly didn’t do much research. That’s coming back to bite them – the ads are condescending, inauthentic, and just plain…well, stupid.

10. Spearmint Rhino Melbourne Outs Underaged Employees

Last, but certainly not least, strip club Spearmint Rhino got more than a little egg on its face after it was revealed one of the dancers at its Birmingham City club was only fifteen years old. This somewhat disturbing revelation came after the club’s marketing department (for some reason) decided it’d be a good idea to run an ad campaign featuring baby pictures of some of its dancers. Somehow, I don’t think the clientele they’re trying to cater to wants to be associating children with their brand.

The timestamp on one of the pictures revealed that the child in question couldn’t have been any older than fifteen—which the brand’s Facebook fans quickly noted. This means that for an indeterminate amount of time, Spearmint Rhino was somehow employing a child in the adult entertainment industry.

What We Can Learn From This Event Marketing Fail:

Whether you’re running an event or an organization, the onus lies on you to run proper background checks on your employees. If something goes wrong involving one of your staff – and it could have been prevented if you’d done a bit of research on them – you’re likely to be held liable.

Do you know of any event marketing fails? If so, let us know on Twitter! We’re @everwall.