Marketing Mishaps Reported by CNN

These are marketing SNAFUs we don't want to emulate.

1. General Motors
As part of a cross promotion with the NBC TV show The Apprentice, GM launches a contest to promote its Chevy Tahoe SUV. At www.Chevyapprentice.com, viewers are given video and music clips with which to create their own 30-second commercials. Among the new Tahoe ads that soon proliferate across the Web are ones with taglines like "Yesterday's technology today" and "Global warming isn't a pretty SUV ad - it's a frightening reality."

2. McDonald's
In August, McDonald's runs a promotional contest in Japan in which it gives away 10,000 Mickey D's-branded MP3 players. The gadgets come preloaded with 10 songs - and, in some cases, a version of the QQPass family of Trojan horse viruses, which, when uploaded to a PC, seeks to capture passwords, user names, and other data and then forward them to hackers.

3. Wal-Mart
In September a folksy new blog called Wal-Marting Across America pops up on the Internet. The blog documents the purportedly spontaneous discoveries of RV-traveling megastore megafans Jim and Laura as they pull over to chat with happy Wal-Mart employees, like the guy whose company health insurance saved his son's life, or the woman who worked her way up from cashier to corporate manager.

Unfortunately, it neglects to mention that Wal-Mart arranged Jim and Laura's itinerary, paid for the RV, and compensated them for the blog entries. Exposed by BusinessWeek.com, the stunt is especially bad news for Wal-Mart, since it violates ethical guidelines it helped to write for the nascent Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

4. AOL
In June, AOL customer Vincent Ferrari calls to cancel his membership. The call lasts 21 minutes, highlighted by a conversation with a "retention consultant" named John who doggedly tries to retain Ferrari's business even though he specifically asks to cancel 18 times. "You're going to let me speak," John says. "If not, we can just argue all day. I really don't care."

Ferrari posts a recording of the call on his blog; it soon spreads across the Web. AOL then announces a "streamlined" protocol that nonetheless calls for pitching would-be cancelers at least two offers.

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