When traveling over the holidays my wife and I were surprised (and, frankly, irritated) by the number of animals traveling in the passenger cabin of our plane. This topic has been in the news a fair amount over the past year as people tried to bring squirrels, peacocks, and other animals on board under the guise of emotional support. Popeye’s has launched a seasonal marketing campaign capitalizing on the recent press. Their “Emotional Support Chicken” was available to passengers going through the Philadelphia airport. You can read more about the campaign in this Forbes article.
We generally focus posts on clever, interesting, and/or effective marketing news but this post is all about marketing failures. Marketing Dive recently posted an article titled “Relive the year’s 6 biggest brand fails — they carry important lessons for marketers” that covers failures from Facebook (via Cambridge Analytica), Papa John’s, McDonald’s, Heinekin, Snapchat, and the digital media ecosystem.
The causes of these failures are varied but the impact is significant. For instance, following a redesign of the Snapchat app, influencer Kylie Jenner tweeted that she didn’t use the app anymore. That tweet erased $1.3B of Snapchat’s market value overnight. McDonald’s tried to show support for Women’s Day by flipping their golden arches upside down but it wound up being perceived as a publicity stunt and drew attention to some of McDonald’s own issues related to it’s female employees. The article covers these issues and more as well as talking about some of the lessons to be learned from each case.
Americans are crazy about Halloween and that works out great for costume companies, candy manufacturers, decoration providers, and of course the retailers that carry those goods. In fact, according to this report from the National Retail Foundation, Halloween represents a ~$9B sales opportunity. $2.6B of that is spent on candy (if you want to give your students an interesting exercise, have them try to calculate/forecast how many individual pieces of candy that represents).
With that much money on the line you can bet candy companies give the event special attention. The Mars Wrigley company even created a job position specifically for the event – Chief Halloween Officer. The current Chief Halloween Officer, Victor Mehren, was recently interviewed regarding the role and it’s unique challenges and opportunities. Students often appreciate the creativity delivered in commercials but they don’t often think about everything that goes on behind the scenes. In the interview, Mehren talks about Halloween’s rise in popularity outside North America, he talks about the planning timeline for Halloween (it starts roughly 6 months before the event!), and he talks about challenges from consumer trends toward more health-conscious consumption. He also talks about some of the marketing campaigns put together including a link to the first new M&M commercial in 11 years. It’s a great interview with many different topics that could fit a good post-Halloween discussion.
Coca-Cola is looking at getting into the cannabis-infused drink business. You won’t be able to get high off the drink since it uses a non-psychoactive component (CBD) in marijuana. Nevertheless, the story is garnering a lot of media attention and Coca-Cola says the industry has significant potential. You can read more about the story here.
Ask your students to put together a marketing strategy for the new Coke drink. Who do they define as the target market? Why? Students often see themselves as the largest market segment for products that they like and this can be a good opportunity to push them to think more broadly. Beyond the target market, what would their marketing mix look like? How would they treat the cannabis component? Would they downplay it or make it front and center? Why? Would they have to implement new logistical processes or distribution channels? There are many different directions you could take this discussion.
Wendy’s and McDonald’s are once again competing for customers. The most recent efforts have centered around luring customers into installing their mobile apps. Wendy’s has been giving away free burgers to help promote use of their mobile app and now they’re using giveaways to promote both the app and their new Harvest Chicken Salad (read more here). Until October 7, customers can get a coupon for a free half-size salad if they download the Wendy’s app.
Given students’ propensity for free food this may be a good discussion on a number of fronts. This can fit into promotions, new product introduction, and even a pricing discussion if you want to talk about the impact of cannibalism on a product portfolio or have students calculate the number of return trips necessary for Wendy’s to break-even on the promotion.