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10 Organizations That Pummeled Their Own Brand
By: Jeff Louis
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Living in the past is a sign of someone who hasn't quite grown up. While this probably rings true for me, I do realize most of you consider yourselves healthy.

Although this is another look back at 2009, aka "Year of the Suck," I promise it will be my last post on the subject.

The following information, gleaned from BNET, proved too good to squander. While the the site's information can be extremely difficult to read, the research had already been completed. At times, I am all for lazy.

You might be familiar with many of these corporate-and-organizational missteps, though some might have occurred below your radar. Without further preamble, here are 10 of the biggest faux pas of 2009 (in no particular order):

  • United Airlines passenger Dave Carroll, a Canadian folk singer, sits quietly and watches baggage being loaded on board his flight. He soon takes notice of the United ground crew throwing his musical equipment onto the aircraft. Retrieving his bags upon arrival, he assesses his equipment to be trashed -- to the tune of $3,500. He files a claim and releases some YouTube videos (the first aptly named "United Breaks Guitars") after the airline refuses to compensate him. United Airlines soon decides to do the right thing and pay. The premier video currently rests at 7.4 million views.


  • Lamar Outdoor advertises an escort service on their billboards, drawing lots of criticism. In response, a spokesperson for Lamar Outdoor states, “We allow anyone to advertise with us, as long as the copy on the billboard is in good taste.” Weeks earlier, however, the company refused to sell ad space to an atheist group in Alabama wanting to display a quote from John Lennon's "Imagine." The quote? “Imagine no religion.”
  • Mock terrorism at it's finest: A low-flying 747, trailed by an F-16 fighter, spends 30 minutes swooping over Manhattan's southern tip, causing jumpy citizens who witnessed the events of Sept. 11 to panic. Fortunately, it's an Air Force One photo shoot. Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, loses his job while taxpayers foot a $330,000 bill for a photo shoot.
  • Kentucky Fried introduces grilled chicken to huge fanfare. Oprah promotes the new item and coupons for a free taste on her show. Millions of coupons get downloaded, and KFC stores run out of chicken and turn away customers. Ad gurus call the the promotion the biggest boneheaded move ever. 
  • During a spa product promotion, JAKKS Pacific, an importer, recalls half a million "Spa Fantasy" products (bath balls). The aromatherapy products are supposed to make bath water bubbly and relaxing. Unfortunately, they're filled with carbon dioxide, which expands, causing several jars to explode. 13 people are injured. Not surprisingly, the products are made in China, the source of many lead-coated toys.
  • Delta purchases Northwest Airlines, securing more routes for the the beleaguered airline. One route, with 144 passengers onboard, flies from San Diego to Minneapolis but misses the approach. By 150 miles. Military jets are scrambled, fearing a terrorist attack. Luckily, it's no such threat; the pilots were just too busy to respond to anyone because they were using their laptops.
  • In the wake of Bernie Madoff, a couple loses their $12 million beachfront home in Malibu, California. Neighbors then hear a party going on at the residence. Baffled, they call the police. Don't worry, it's just a Wells Fargo senior executive in charge of repossessions having a shindig. She and her family decided to take advantage and had been using the property as their beach house. As a result, the executive gets fired.
  • The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) releases ads and video depicting full-size commercial jets headed for New York City in a Sept. 11 re-creation times 10. This comes in an effort to say, "Tsunamis are powerful." The campaign wins a merit award at the New York One Show, of all places.
  •  Damn the interns! One intern uses the violence following Iran's elections to promote Habitat furniture's spring line and uses misleading #hashtags on Twitter. Habitat states he was a "rogue intern," placing  the entire weight of their blame on him. Why Habitat let an intern run the company's Twitter marketing never gets explained.
  • Shocker of the Year: National "Take Your Kid to Work Day" results in 43 children being hit with 50,000 volts of electricity while touring Florida State Penitentiary. What's even more shocking? Some parents were employed by the prison that administered the shock treatment.

To read more, check out Bnet's breakdown of The 77 stupidest managerial moves and worst business blunders of 2009.



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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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