Marketing fast food doesn't sound like a difficult job. If you want to put butts in burger-shaped stools, all you really have to do is put up a poster asking "Are you tired? Are you feeling lazy? Are you a teenager? Are you drunk or high? Come in, friend." That would be enough to get most of us to turn out. But when you dig into the history of this "art," there are a lot more failures than you might think. Some minor, some major, and some made of madness. Like how ...
So there's this show called Rick And Morty which airs every other millennium. If you've never heard of it, that's not surprising, considering it's only for the most rational and intelligent minds out there. Anyway, here's how McDonald's made these genius-level intellects fill their diapers over dipping sauce.
In the closing moments of the third season premiere, Rick rants that his ultimate goal in life is to get his vomit-encrusted hands on a discontinued line of "Szechuan sauce" that McDonald's briefly offered in 1998 to promote Mulan.
It's a beautifully unhinged soliloquy that underscores how at heart, Rick is a destructive, selfish, emotionally hollow child with no business having mastery of the space-time continuum. As fan culture is in a weird place right now, some viewers were inspired to start lobbying McDonald's to bring back the sauce for real -- and in a surprising move, McDonald's agreed.
There were a couple of caveats, though. The sauce would only be available for one day ... at selected outlets ... in limited quantities. When that day came, fans turned out in droves, and lines quickly formed outside of restaurants, with some having journeyed for hours to take part, or even crossing over from Canada. The fans had done their part, now it was time for McDonald's -- with their decades of managing events more complicated than a dipping sauce rollout -- to step up and deliver the goods, putting a neat bow on this extended inside joke. What could go wrong?
As it turned out, everything. McDonald's botched the promotion so badly that a decent number of stores advertised as having the sauce in fact did not. And if stores did receive sauce packs, they were in such limited quantities that "limited" seems to generous a word. One store, for instance, received only 20 packets for an estimated crowd of 300.
The embattled employees did the best they could to talk down the angry lines of people who'd spent hours lining up for dipping sauce. Soon enough, things boiled over into chaos, as fans entered restaurants and broke out into protest chants, yelling, or full-on tantrums. This would be merely cringeworthy if some didn't follow this up by harassing workers, climbing on tables, and becoming so aggressive that police had to be called to quell the dumbest riot since the Tickle Me Elmo Tumult of '96.
In the aftermath of this disaster, McDonald's apologized to fans and promised that the sauce would get a wider release at some point in the future -- which it did a few months later. The creators of Rick And Morty, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, were also quick to point out that they and the show weren't involved in any way with the promotion, and that this was all on McDonald's for trying to exploit a force they didn't understand. The fans who lost their minds over dipping sauce couldn't be reached for comment, because they were all too busy perfecting their "Joaquin Phoenix as Joker" Halloween costumes.
In December 2014, TGI Fridays unveiled its latest idea to snag diners: a "mobile mistletoe drone" that would hover over patrons to get them to make out in exchange for prizes. We would've tried "offering better food," but that's why we're not management material. But during a demonstration of the concept at a TGIs in Brooklyn, a photographer for Brooklyn Paper was injured after a drone that was attempting to land in the palm of her hand -- at the insistence of the operator -- wound up smacking her in the face, causing cuts to her chin and the end of her nose to be "chipped off."
The drone operator blamed the photographer, saying that she would've been fine if she hadn't flinched. According to patrons who witnessed the incident, she only suffered a "flesh wound," and a few accused her of milking the situation for attention. It's hard to say whether this was the case, but on balance, this still doesn't come close to the worst dining experience we've ever had inside a TGI Fridays.
In 2015, a branch of Krispy Kreme in the English city of Hull had a brilliant idea. The local schools were about to go on spring break, and what better way to get those youngsters hooked on fun (and diabetes), than hosting a week-long series of activities like colouring (with a "u"), board games, and face painting? It would've worked, too, if only they hadn't accidentally tried to get their young charges hooked on another staple from across the pond: organized white supremacy.
Krispy Kreme UK
Or at least, we hope it was accidental. The KKK once had a kids club too.
It didn't take long for parents to raise some concerns about the unfortunate acronym, and suggest that if Krispy Kreme carried on, they might find themselves hosting a UKIP event. The store immediately cancelled the event and apologized to parents, vowing that this would never happen again. They did not say whether they'd also be keeping a close eye on "Face-Painting Thursday," given how the manager apparently flunked basic history.
The halcyon days of the '80s gave us one of the most famous advertising mascots in history: The Noid, an unholy pizza-delaying demon who formed the basis of Domino's famous "30 minutes or less" campaign.
Which was popular until it came out that, instead of pizzas, he was mostly destroying lives.
Unlike McDonald's and Ronald McDonald, or Burger King and the King, the Noid isn't famous for being a great character, or because he sold a lot of pizzas. Rather, he inspired a schizophrenic man to take hostages and shoot up a restaurant.
On January 30, 1989, Kenneth Lamar Noid, a 22-year-old with a history of mental health issues, walked into a Domino's in Atlanta, Georgia with a revolver and took two employees hostage. His demands were simple: He wanted $100,000, a getaway limo, and a book. One of those seems pretty reasonable, actually. The subsequent standoff with police dragged on for so long that Noid soon ordered his hostages to make him a couple of pizzas (and a salad). This proved to be his downfall. While he was distracted by his feast, his hostages escaped through a back door. After he realized what happened, Noid fired a few frustrated shots into the roof and then, having no other choice, surrendered to police.
After a lengthy trial, Noid was found not guilty of kidnapping (among other charges) by reason of insanity. It isn't hard to see why. When questioned about his motive, Noid explained that this was his revenge against Domino's for stealing his name for their mascot and creating the "Avoid the Noid" campaign to harass and ostracize him from society. After being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Noid was institutionalized. He never recovered from his delusions, and died by suicide a few years later.
Although Domino's denies that this incident had anything to do with them dropping the Noid from all subsequent advertising, c'mon. This isn't to say that the Noid never rode again, though. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the character in 2011, he was resurrected for an 8-bit Facebook game called The Noid's Super Pizza Shootout -- a title that we feel could've been given a little more thought.
To promote 1999's Pokemon: The First Movie, Burger King gave kids the chance to catch their own 'mons for real. For two months, every kids' meal came packaged with a collectible Pokemon figurine encased in its own Pokeball container.
It was a killer promotion that caused such a frenzy that restaurants reported selling upwards of 1,000 kids' meals per day, with locations that sold out reporting having to deal with children (and parents) melting down at their counters. It was also a killer promotion in the more literal sense. A 13-month-old suffocated after getting ahold of the toy. Remember that neat-sounding Pokeball container? It turned out that the detachable pieces were perfectly proportioned to clasp around a child's nose and mouth, forming an airtight seal.
After the first death, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged BK to recall the toys. They refused, arguing that it was "not concluded that the ball was the cause [of death]." After a second close call, BK had to be forced into issuing a recall, and it advised parents to hand over the deadly Pokeballs (in exchange for a free portion of fries). This recall sadly missed the family of four-month-old Zachary Jones, and he was found dead almost a month after it was announced.
In the aftermath, both victims' families settled with BK and Equity Marketing (the company who manufactured the toys) for an undisclosed amount. BK hailed the recall -- which cost them $1 million -- as a success which resulted in the destruction of over 23 million unsold/returned toys. It isn't clear whether they incinerated the toys or buried them at landfill, but if it was the latter, someone should put up warning signs for future generations.
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