5 of the Worst Marketing Ideas Ever


McDonald’s has targeted the bicycle loving hipster with one of their new marketing ideas. Called the McBike [seriously, it is], the packaging allows someone on a bicycle to carry a sandwich, fries, and drink while it dangles from the bike’s handles. Think of it like a purse for your McDouble.


Many companies are going through rebranding efforts these days because they’re losing their market share. Here are some of the worst marketing ideas ever that someone somewhere thought was the best idea ever.

#1. DIVX

The problem with DIVX was that it was an idea before its time. You get a disc with a movie on it and 48 hours of viewing time for $4 [more or less]. If you wanted extra time, then you could order it. It costs $4 to rent movies on Amazon today, so why did DIVX fail when this is the system in place? Phones. You needed a separate landline for your internet for DIVX discs because otherwise you’d never get a phone call.

Circuit City lost over $100 million on this idea. It’s still around, but more of an online video streaming option than a Netflix option. Make sure to note the DirecTV plug in the training video. Maybe Dish Network had a role in killing the idea.

#2. Internet Explorer 8

Humor is a tricky thing when it comes to marketing. If it works, it can make you become an icon in your industry [Dollar Shave Club, Old Spice, etc.]. When it fails, your work gets you put onto lists like these.

To introduce IE8, Microsoft brought out Superman himself, Dean Cain, to talk about the benefits of hiding a browser history while a wife vomits all over her husband. The video speaks for itself.

#3. Burger King

Remember all of The King commercials that hit the airways for nearly a decade, beginning in 2003? Burger King kept pushing them out even though just about every focus group agreed that the ads were creepy at best and stalkerish at worst. Some quarters BK lost 6%, yet the ads kept coming.

You’ll never look at meat and cheese… and meat and cheese in the same way again.

#4. Tom Ford for Men

Sex sells. It’s been proven time and time again. Does soft core porn sell products? That’s the question this fragrance line decided to answer. With pictures of naked women and strategically placed bottles of fragrance, many of the advertising images aren’t suitable for the PG-13 audience.

We’ve included one of the few “safe” images as an example. Make sure to view using IE8.

#5. McAfrika

What goes around comes around, which means McDonald’s makes a second appearance here with their McAfrika. Let’s for a second not even address the ethnic or racial stereotypes that come to mind with a sandwich. Let’s ignore that it was beef, cheese, and vegetables wrapped in Pita Bread.


Here’s why the McAfrika failed. At the time of its 2002 launch in Norway, there was a major famine in southern Africa that was considered a major humanitarian disaster. At one point during the year, the daily mortality rate of the famine was 10,000 people PER DAY. Now here’s the McAfrika, being sold in one of the richest nations on the planet.

Talk about a fail. McDonald’s didn’t back down. They allowed donation boxes for the African famine in their restaurants to help promote the sandwich. If that negative feedback wasn’t strong enough, McDonald’s brought the sandwich back a second time in 2008.

As an extra bonus, you can try the McArabia too.

What is the lesson to be learned here? Know your audience. Test out the reactions people have to a marketing idea. What seems awesome to you may be the worst idea ever to your core audience, even if you do create an extensive training video in an attempt to counter the negative impacts.

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Graeme Sandlin
A theologian of the odd. I love all things tech, especially if there's a sci-fi element to it. You'll find something special I've created every day... and not just on the internet.