Houston, we have a problem.

Sometimes, in an effort to think outside the box and really catch the attention of consumers, companies make a major marketing misstep that raises eyebrows rather than sales numbers.

Steer clear of consumer backlash by taking heed of these seven entries in the marketing hall of shame.



In the fall of 2015, IHOP took to Twitter to draw attention to its most popular breakfast food offering: the iconic pancake stack. But the franchise quickly received backlash from angry followers who found the tweets to be in poor taste.

2. Domino’s


This S&M-themed Domino’s ad recently incited confusion among pizza lovers everywhere. The risque ad features a tied up tongue, alongside the message: “You’re going to suffer and enjoy every moment.”

Although Domino’s claims the campaign was “pitched by an agency to the independent franchise in Israel” and was never intended to surface, the leak still managed to stir up some fresh, hot controversy.

3. Fiat


Fiat got creative with their marketing efforts by sending out anonymous love letters to a list of female consumers. But was meant to be cute took a creepy turn: the Italian car brand made no public mention of the campaign, leading recipients to believe that the cryptic messages were coming from an unknown admirer (stalker?). Suffice it to say, the whole debacle was widely condemned as an epic fail.

4. United Way

united way

Back in 1986, the non-profit organization United Way released 1.5 million colorful balloons into the Cleveland sky. The grandiose plan was hatched in an effort to break a world record while simultaneously promoting a fundraiser.

Shortly after the balloons were released, a rush of cold air pushed them back down to the ground, clogging the streets, shutting down an airport runway, and even thwarting the efforts of a Coast Guard search. Talk about good intentions gone wrong.

5. Snapple


In 2005, Snapple rolled out a giant popsicle made from the newest flavor of this popular fruity beverage. Even before the brand could fully display the frozen treat, it began to melt, quickly filling the streets of Manhattan with a sticky, aromatic substance.

6. U2


Rock band U2 partnered with Apple back in to 2014 to promote the release of their album “Songs of Innocence” by automatically uploading it into the music libraries of millions of iTunes users.

While people generally love getting free stuff, many music lovers were appalled by this invasion of their playlists: “Dumping an album in hundreds of millions of iTunes libraries whether people want it or not, reduces music to the level of a software update or a bug-fix or just plain spam,” said Paul Quirk, chairman of the ERA.

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Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for Ireland.com, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

More posts by Ami Foote