Last Updated on March 10, 2020
Getting creative with your restaurant marketing is usually a good idea. Unfortunately not every idea is a good idea, as these stories will attest. Here are 8 examples of some of restaurant marketing campaigns that bombed.
1. McDonald’s Super Sized Olympic Mistake
To show team spirit, McDonalds offered guests a free Big Mac, fries, or Coke for every gold, silver, or bronze the U.S. won in the 1984 Olympics. Forgetting that the U.S.S.R. (the United States’ largest competitor) wouldn’t participate that year, McDonalds gave away twice as many Big Macs as anticipated.
2. Red Lobster’s All-You-Can-Eat Promotion
In 2003, when Red Lobster launched its all-you-can-eat snow crab legs campaign, the price of snow crabs skyrocketed. They actually lost money for every customer who ate more than six crab legs — more than $3 million. Painful, considering the average diner ate two dozen.
3. The McAfrica: McDonald’s Poor Taste In Names
In an attempt to bring some global flavors to their menu, McDonald’s in Norway rolled out the McAfrica burger in 2002. The only problem: that year, Africa experienced a lethal famine that affected more than 12 million people.
4. Burger King’s “Wake Up With The King” (And The Creeps) Campaign
It’s difficult to say how much money Burger King invested trying to make their regal mascot as big as Ronald McDonald. We do know, however, that after seeing a six percent drop in sales in the first quarter of 2011, BK fired the ad company responsible for the promotion.
5. Pizza Promoted by Hitler
New Zealand Hell Pizza’s ads featuring Hitler was offensive. Then again, the pizza chain isn’t exactly known for tactful advertising. In 2006, to promote their Lust Pizza, the complementary condoms sent out generated 685 complaints. Nobody thought their $5,001 purchase of a man’s soul was a sound investment either.
6. Carl Jr.’s “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Eating”
Carl Jr.’s 2000 “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Eating” campaign was intended to help CKE Restaurants Inc. recover from a severe drop in profits. It didn’t. But it did spark a number of parodies, making the fast food chain the butt of many jokes.
7. Last Dictator Standing by Nando’s
In 2011, Nando’s restaurant ran their now infamous “Last Dictator Standing” commercial featuring Robert Mugabe dining alone on their food for Christmas. The ad was in such poor taste that Nandos staff members received death threats.
8. KFC Free Chicken Disaster
In 2009, KFC advertised on Oprah that guests could go online to get a coupon for a free two-piece chicken meal. Four million people downloaded 10.5 million coupons. Altogether, KFC shelled out $42 million in free meals — until they ran out of chicken and riots started.