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Over the past few weeks, both Sam and Melanie wrote great blogs on how to use hype. When done properly, the right amount of build-up and hype for your business, event, rebrand, etc. can boost your digital reach, making a memorable impression on your audience. When done incorrectly, however, you can become the laughing stock of the internet. 

You know the saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Well, yeah, there sort of is…so here’s a few of my favorite marketing hype fails:

1. April the Giraffe

On February 10th 2017, New York’s Animal Adventure Park planned to live stream the birth of a giraffe. Their pregnant giraffe, April, was due any day. For hours each day, using live stream on both Facebook and YouTube, we watched as a heavily pregnant giraffe toddled around in her pen. Interest peaked as it was briefly banned from YouTube for “nudity and sexual content.”

ToysRUs and BabysRUs promoted and sponsored it, a Giraffemoji was created, and a GoFundMe account raised over $125,000. April the Giraffe was a household name, and Animal Adventure Park watched as their Facebook likes skyrocketed into the millions overnight. 

Each new video was captioned with, “Any day now!” ” We’ve seen a lot of movement.” “Vets will be with her all night.” 

The world watched in anticipation…and watched…and watched…suddenly, viewers began to realize that something was off. Maybe they miscalculated her due date? Parodies were made, people became antsy and moved their attention elsewhere. Soon, no one really cared anymore.

Fast forward to April 15th, when April the Giraffe finally gave birth – more than two months AFTER her original due date. At this point, it was such old news that the general public shrugged it off and thought, “eh.” 

What Animal Adventure Park should have done: Once they realized that the timeline wasn’t moving as quickly as anticipated, they should have taken it as an opportunity to showcase other animals or activities in the park. By moving away from the pregnant, lumbering giraffe, and highlighting other exciting occurrences, they could have kept their audience more engaged. Then, when they realized that it actually WAS going to happen, they could have shifted their view back to April and her baby. 

2. 2017 PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) release

God bless basic b*tches everywhere. Their love of all things pumpkin flavored has changed seasonal marketing as we know it. Did you know you can literally buy a pumpkin spice spray to douse all of your food and beverages with your favorite cult-following flavor? ANYWAY…

In 2003, Starbucks began selling this wildly popular drink. Since then, they’ve sold over 200 million PSLs, and it doesn’t look to be losing its momentum anytime soon. 

That is, unless, they continue to fail in their hype marketing tactics (again). 

In September of 2017, Starbucks created a “Pumpkin Spice Latte Hatch Cam.” The backdrop was of an animal enclosure, with a pumpkin sitting in the middle. The idea was that for four days, they would be “waiting” for the PSL to be “born.” Painting, meditation, puppies, kittens, and a bunch of other random stuff was involved.

…and then, individual stores started messing up. Some started selling it too soon, others, too late. The “official” launch SHOULD have been Sept 5th, but stores were actually starting to sell them anywhere from the 2nd-8th. Consumers were frustrated and annoyed, and Starbucks soon learned that you do NOT get in the way of a basic b*tch and her PSL. 

What Starbucks should have done: Yes, it’s evident this was a bit of a spoof on the April the Giraffe fail. But to start doing this six months after the Animal Adventure Park fail seems a little bandwagon-y and irrelevant. People were confused, and overall, it was just weird…next year, Starbucks needs to be sure to:

a) streamline its communication as to the official release date

b) just release it. The PSL cult isn’t going anywhere; they don’t really need to make a big deal of it.


3. Google Glass

Oh Google Glass. You were supposed to be THE must-have tech tool of 2014. All the hype, millions of dollars spent on development alone, and then…flop. 

You see, when Google created Glass, it seemed as though they did not necessarily think through the implications in its entirety (then again, who ever does? But I digress).

I mean, yes, it is incredibly innovative. You have to give them that. To essentially take two every day items (glasses and cell phone), and combine them into one product, it seems like a home run. Alas, ’twas not its fate. 

People sort of freaked out about the whole, you know, privacy issues…considering Google Glass can take pictures with just a wink (no seriously), record audio and video constantly, and do so much more. People were rightfully sketched out by the idea that their private conversations could be recorded by anyone at anytime. All the while, Google released a “Find My Face” tagging feature on G+, and individuals were concerned that owners of these glasses would be able to identify them without even actually knowing them. 

Moreover, driving. Need I say more? Well, I will. Texting and driving, Facebooking and driving, phone calls and driving, all of these are already the causes of many automobile accidents. Now, imagine that instead of having this piece of technology in your hand, you had it in front of your face, at all times, and you literally could not take it off. Do you see how this may be an issue?

In my opinion, the issue with Google Glass boils down to this: it’s annoying. Glasses are intended to clarify one’s surroundings. These allow you to see, but also add a computer screen in front of your face 24/7. We already have to battle millions of distractions daily, and the thought that these glasses add even more distractions just makes my brain hurt. I have a cell phone for all this stuff, but what makes it so great is this: I can turn it off, or walk away from it, whenever I want. 

The right kind of hype can give your business a lot of traction and momentum. BUT, if you have any misstep or slip up, you could become the laughing stock of the internet. Navigate this territory wisely. 

BONUS: Hashtag fails

  1. Susan Boyle Album Release Party: #susanalbumparty
  2. Burger King: #WTFF (what the french fry)
  3. Margaret Thatcher’s death: #nowthatchersdead (wait is Cher dead?)
  4. Quantas: #quantasluxury (the same day all their flights were grounded due to union labor disputes)
  5. Newsweek: #muslimrage 
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