3 Cringe-Worthy Activations and How to Avoid Them

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Now that we are in the thick of the experiential marketing season, rest assured there will be some unwelcome surprises in store. For a professional like you, that will likely be as little as a bag of popcorn that fails to pop. 

For some marketers however - even storied brands like Starbucks and Pepsi - promotional ideas can sometimes blow up in really bad ways. While we wish the best of all colleagues in this business, sometimes you have to cringe. 

1. Cringe with Every Cup

The "Race Together" campaign, complete with a hashtag, was billed as an attempt to spark dialogue among customers about racism - at the cash register. Needless to say, it failed. People simply did not want to discuss weighty matters over a skinny latte.

The overall reaction to the campaign is perhaps best summed up by twitter user @reignofApril:

"I don't have time to explain 400 years of oppression to you and still make my train."

2. Cringe in Cashmere


This next cringe-worthy faux pas comes courtesy of Bloomingdales. In the age of the #metoo movement, not to mention basic decency and respect, it seems a fashion brand would have more sense. The actual egg nog that had been stocked up in stores for brand activation never got served. Kinda put a chill on Christmas for Bloomies. 

3. The Cringe Generation 

This last example has a lot in common with what Starbucks tried to do for race relations. It has been called the "Kendall Jenner Pepsi mess" of a few years back. Much like trying to discuss touchy social issues over a latte, Pepsi went one worse and used cultural icon Kendall Jenner in an ad that implied people of all walks of life could solve their problems by drinking a Pepsi.

The campaign idea had many classic event marketing staples to make it work:

  • great spokesperson
  • crowd messaging
  • a simple activation

Kendall Jenner was on the verge of becoming the spokesmodel for the new Pepsi generation and the Pepsi marketing machine was fired up to support her.

Unfortunately, just writing about it makes you want to cringe to this day.

No matter what generation you are from.

Conclusion: A Few Data Points of Wisdom

We realize you may be asking, "what does Kendall Jenner have to do with my business-to-business event?" "Surely the engineers, scientists, and business people who attend your functions would never tolerate someone putting flour in their Pepsi can...

While this might be true, the fact is that the only way to defend your enterprise from bad event marketing is data driven enterprise event planning: DEEP. Marketers that use these sophisticated platforms realize that event planning is a process, not a project.

DEEP platforms give you the tools to implement and refine what has worked in the past and recognize them for the future. They also help you look at trends in your event data and recognize behavior patterns that can yield evidence-based breakthroughs. 

Like the acronym itself, it's always better to go deep on the planning before you implement any idea. Think competence. Not cringe. 

To learn more about DEEP software and how you can integrate it with your own marketing materials, download our free whitepaper:

DEEP Whitepaper One

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