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The biggest PR and social media mishaps

From having to give away over 60 bottles of Champagne to offending entire countries, some marketing and social media plans have not gone entirely well.

Marketing is an integral part of any brand’s publicity planning and social media has become an increasingly important part of that as well.

And while some brands are rocking social media, mistakes still happen and when they do the joys of the internet can often mean they are seen around the world very quickly.

Here’s our look at some alcohol-related marketing and social media mishaps.

Win your weight in Veuve Clicquot

New Zealand’s National Business Review (NBR) decided to celebrate its 40th birthday with a competition that would see the winner “win their weight in Veuve Clicquot Champagne”.

To enter the competition people simply had to go on to the NBR website and write a paragraph about how they would dispose of so much Champagne, if they won it. The entries would then be open for people to vote for their favourite.

NBR used its social media to promote the competition garnering 413 entries and 16,000 votes, the problem came when the most popular entry didn’t exactly fit within the stylish parameters that NBR and Veuve Clicquot had hoped.

The most popular entry came from ‘Busty Blonde’, who wrote: “I weigh heaaaps! So on the back of my successful 50th birthday in Wellington where I fed 50 people on lobster and Bluff oysters, I would hold a “Just because you can” kick arse picnic on a pontoon in Frank Kitts Lagoon. However, everyone would have to dress up and pretend to be complete wankers – which shouldn’t be too hard!”

After a series of panicked meetings NBR and Veuve Clicquot declared Michael Havill to be the competition’s winner, but this announcement annoyed the blogging and social media community. One blogger wrote: “They basically conned bloggers and other social media users into promoting their contest for them under false pretences.”

After the backlash NBR then issued an apology, saying that it would give Busty Blonde her prize “to demonstrate that NBR will not allow its integrity, transparency or honesty in its dealings with its readers to be compromised in any way.”

Cleveland Indians 10 cent beer night

In 1974 US baseball team the Cleveland Indians decided to hold a promotion offering fans the chance to buy 12 US fl oz cups of beer for just 10 cents, with a limit of six per purchase (the regular price was 65 cents).

The promotion saw over 25,000 head to the game against the Texas Rangers, which was twice the number expected and throughout the game the crowd, not surprisingly, became more and more drunk.

Several fans ran on to the pitch, either streaking or simply ‘mooning’ players, before one fan tried to steal a cap from one of the Texas players. The player tried to confront the fan but tripped; his teammates thought he had been attacked and charged onto the field, some wielding bats.

This saw a large number of drunk fans charge on to the pitch, some with stadium seats, chains and even knives. The two teams initially tried to confront the fans but soon realised they were massively outnumbered and fled from the pitch, a full scale riot then ensued, which was eventually calmed down by police.

Amazingly the club decided to hold another 10 cent beer night just over a month later, although this time they limited the maximum number that could be bought at one time to two.

Belvedere Vodka

Last year Belvedere Vodka put out this advert, with the line “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly”, with a rather scared looking woman being grabbed by a smiling man.

The advert was shared on the brand’s official Twitter and Facebook pages and immediately drew criticism; so much so that it was taken down within one hour. But many of the brand’s 10,000+ Twitter followers and 900,000 Facebook fans had already seen it.

The advert saw many people react furiously, saying that the advert made light of sexual assault. Belvedere then tried to apologise for the advert, but only succeeded in enraging fans further because it did not address the advert’s apparent rape reference. One Facebook post read: “Belvedere Vodka, your apology is insufficient as it does not accept responsibility for promoting rape-culture.”

Eventually Charles Gibbs, the company’s president, stepped in saying that it would make a donation to anti-sexual violence charity Rainn, adding “I am currently investigating the matter to determine how this happened and to be sure it never does so again.”

To make matters worse for Belvedere the model in the photograph sued the company for “emotional distress and unlicensed use of her image”.

Absolut Mexico

In 2008 Absolut published this advert showing an 1830s map of southern America and Mexico, when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. The territories were lost to the US in the 1848 Mexican-American war and other battles; many Mexicans still resent losing the land to the US.

The adverts were only run in Mexico, but in this internet age were seen in the US and sparked outrage among many Americans, some of whom called for a boycott of Absolut.

Absolut withdrew the advert and released a statement saying “In no way was it meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues.”

Cristal v the hip hop community

Frédéric Rouzaud, the managing director of Cristal, suffered a PR nightmare after an interview with The Economist magazine. Asked about the Champagne’s links to the “bling lifestyle” of hip-hop, he said: “What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

The quote was published in the magazine, with a sub heading “Unwanted attention”, which was the editor’s phrase, not Rouzaud.

Jay-Z, a huge rap star in the US, responded to the quote by saying: “It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention.’ I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands, including the 40/40 Club, nor in my personal life.”

Watering down Maker’s Mark

Early this year the good people at Maker’s Mark thought they had come up with the perfect way to deal with an impending shortage of the product. The company announced that it would be reducing the strength of its product from 45% to 42% to extend supply.

But its customers were not happy and immediately the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages were bombarded with people who were angry about the decision. As Kate Lee in Forbes wrote: “People would rather deal with a shortage of their favourite bourbon than a shortage of alcohol in their bourbon.”

After less than a week the company changed its mind, with COO Rob Samuels and his father, chairman Bill Samuels Jr issuing a statement, which read: “Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.”

Sailor Jerry spiced rum

This was almost the ‘new coke’ of the rum world. In 2010 Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum decided to change the recipe, with the new drink having less “vanilla and lime character” than the original version.

Many fans of the drink were outraged and an internet campaign trying to force the brand to backtrack on this new idea and change the formula back to the way it was before.

One fan wrote: “I think the new Sailor Jerry is terrible, its tastes like a cheap supermarket own brand rum! It’s lost what made it stand out from all the other rums.”

But unlike many other brands, including Coca Cola, Sailor Jerry stuck to its guns and stayed with the new recipe

Gemma Adams, brand manager for Sailor Jerry at First Drinks, said: “The new liquid has been extremely well received by bartenders who have been vital to the brand’s success to date.”

Coors Light’s Puerto Rican cans

Every year a National Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place in New York and for the last seven years MillerCoors has supported and sponsored the parade. This year the brand decided to put out a limited release 500ml can with a Puerto Rico flag on it to celebrate the day and the parade. It did not go down well.

Vincent Torres, a community organizer with Boricuas For a Positive Image, said: “It is an absolute insult to all Puerto Ricans to have our flag, our national colours, plastered on a beer can. We want the company, and the parade organisers, to know that we won’t stand for this.”

Eventually MillerCoors decided to pull the flag can and the brand’s chief public affairs officer, Nehl Horton, said: “We apologise if the graphic on our promotional packaging inadvertently offended you or any other members of the Puerto Rican community.”

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