Flunking the Pepsi Challenge

The following is reprinted from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader Lots of companies have ad campaigns that flop, but Pepsi seems to have more than its share. Here are a few classic bombs.

Keep On Truckin'

For its "Pepsi 400" contest in the summer of 2001, Pepsi offered to send the holders of five winning tickets on an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida's Daytona 400 auto race. One of the five would get to drive home in the grand prize, a brand-new Dodge truck; the other four would each get $375 worth of free gas. There was just one problem: contest organizers accidentally printed 55 winning tickets instead of five. Rather than risk alienating the winners - not to mention millions of Pepsi drinkers - Pepsi sent all 55 winners to Daytona, gave away five trucks instead of one, and spent $20,625 on free gas instead of $1,825. Estimated cost of error: about $400,000.


Pepsi Stuff catalog page featuring Cindy Crawford. Image: PepsiCo, Inc. (1996) from Wikipedia In April 1996, Pepsi canceled its "Pepsi Stuff" merchandise giveaway campaign months ahead of schedule. Reason: Too many winners. The company underestimated how many people would redeem the points by 50%, forcing it to spend $60 million more than expected on free merchandise. "We're outpacing our goals on awareness," a company spokesperson explained.

Jet Lag

Another disaster from the "Pepsi Stuff" campaign: 21-year-old John Leonard tried to redeem seven million award points for the Harrier fighter jet he saw offered in a Pepsi Stuff TV ad. The rules stipulated that contestants could buy points for 10¢ apiece, so that's what he did. Leonard (who studied flawed promotions in business school) raised $700,000 to buy the required points and then sent the money to Pepsi, along with a letter demanding they hand over the $50 million jet. When Pepsi refused, claiming the offer was made "in jest," Leonard filed suit in federal court. Three years later, a judge ruled that "no objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered consumers a Harrier jet." Pepsi lucked out ... case dismissed.

The King of (Soda) Pop

YouTube Clip of a Pepsi Ad featuring Michael Jackson from the 1980s Even Pepsi's biggest successes can become colossal flops. In 1983 they signed the largest individual sponsorship deal in history with pop singer Michael Jackson. It was a multi-year deal and Pepsi made millions from it ... only to find itself linked to one of the most lurid scandals of the 1990s when Jackson abruptly cancelled his Pepsi-sponsored "Dangerous" tour in 1993. Jackson's reasons for quitting: (1) stress generated by allegations that he had sexually molested a young boy, and (2) addiction to painkillers he took "to control pain from burns suffered while filming a Pepsi ad."

The Name Game

In 1983 another Pepsi contest ran into budget trouble when the company offered $5 per letter to any customer who could spell their own last name using letters printed on Pepsi bottle caps and flip tops. Pepsi hoped to control the number of cash prizes by releasing only a limited number of vowels ... but it failed to take into account people like Richard "no vowels" Vlk, who turned in 1,393 three-letter sets and pocketed $20,894 for his effort. Vlk, a diabetic who does not drink Pepsi, collected the letters by taking out classified ads offering to split the winnings with anyone who sent him a matching set. "I don't even remember making one whole set myself," he says. "I didn't buy any Pepsi." (The company got even by mailing him his winnings in $15 increments, one check for each winning set.)

They Can See Clearly Now

In 1992 Pepsi introduced Crystal Pepsi, an attempt to cash in on the booming popularity of see-through soft drinks like Clearly Canadian. Sales were less than half of what Pepsi projected, even after the company reformulated the product. Marketing experts point to two critical flaws that they say doomed Crystal Pepsi from the start: (1) customers balked at paying extra for a product that, because it was clear, was perceived to have fewer ingredients than regular Pepsi, and (2) after more than a century of conditioning, consumers want colas to be dark brown in color. "Clear sodas are about as appetizing as brown water," an industry analyst explains.
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader. Where else but in a Bathroom Reader could you learn how the banana peel changed history, how to predict the future by rolling the dice, how the Jivaro tribes shrunk heads, and the science behind love at first sight? Get ready to be thoroughly entertained while occupied on the throne. Uncle John rules the world of information and humor. It's simply Ahh-Inspiring! Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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That Mercola.com quote... I'm ignoring the advice, given the source:

Joseph Mercola, D.O. (born 1954), is an osteopathic physician, health activist, and entrepreneur practicing in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.[1] He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The No-Grain Diet (with Alison Rose Levy), and The Great Bird Flu Hoax, together with several other books. Mercola is best known as founder and editor of the alternative-medicine website Mercola.com, where he advocates dietary and lifestyle approaches to health and markets a variety of health-related products. Mercola criticizes many of the practices of mainstream medicine and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), particularly vaccination and the use of prescription drugs and surgery to treat diseases.[2] He is a member of the politically conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, as well as several alternative medicine-related organizations.[3]
Mercola has received two warnings from the FDA for marketing nutritional products in a manner which violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.[4][5] A 2006 BusinessWeek editorial criticized Mercola's marketing practices as "relying on slick promotion, clever use of information, and scare tactics."[6]

Yea. An alt-med quack is going to tell me I'll SUGAR CRASH an hour after a single cola. Mhm.
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Another man's poison, is another man's cure. Cola does wonders to me. so much about it being bad. if you think its bad to you, dont drink it. but if you feel good drinking it, then go ahead.live and let live.if its your time to die, it is your time.
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