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8 of the Biggest Event Marketing Mistakes That Brands Have Made

Making mistakes is a normal and expected part of life, but what happens when marketers make event mistakes that go viral for all the wrong reasons? From lackluster product reveals to hefty legal fines, check out this list of 8 event marketing gaffes.

Events are susceptible to all kinds of mistakes, including failed social media posts, fizzled product coupons, and costly giveaways. There are some mistakes however, that are more notorious than the rest.

Whether you’re looking for B2B event marketing ideas or just for a good laugh, check out our entertaining feature of the most distasteful marketing offenses and what you can do to avoid mistakes like these with your own event brand.

1. Snapchat Goofed a Major Surprise

Snapchat had the perfect setup for a mysterious reveal—but they forgot a key detail. In a cryptic post, Snapchat shared a link that led users to a website with a countdown clock. Realizing they could trick the clock and end the countdown by changing the timezone on their computers, users did just that, effectively ruining and leaking the surprise within hours of Snapchat’s campaign release.

Snapchat Product Countdown

Source: Snapchat

How to Avoid This Mistake: Account for users who think out of the box, particularly when releasing a new product, feature, or update. Tools like event marketing software make it easy to create landing pages and other technical aspects of your campaign that won’t let the cat out of the bag too early.

2. Walkers Featured Serial Killers and Dictators on Their Website

This UK-based snack company hosted a selfie competition on social media to promote their ticket giveaway for the Champions League, a major sporting event. In an unexpected turn of events, many participants chose to submit images of notable murderers and criminals. Because Walkers had automated their hashtag to auto-populate selfie submissions on their website, the images were published immediately for all to see.

Walkers' Event marketing Mistake

Source: Walkers

How to Avoid This Mistake: Give yourself error margins when conducting public marketing campaigns. Have a system in place for social media campaigns that thrive on user submissions to weed out offensive or inappropriate entries.

3. Adidas Boston Marathon Bombing Automation

Adidas incorporated what would have been a great follow-up marketing plan following the Boston Marathon. Marketers sent an email to attendees with a subject line that read, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” Obviously this offended many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing (and rightfully so).

Adidas' Marketing Insensitivity

Source: Boston Magazine

How to Avoid This Mistake: Steer clear of delicate topics in marketing messagesBe aware of the major events that have shaped the lives of people you’re marketing to. A little more information or research could have helped this team craft a better message.

4. Nomadica Wine Vandalized an Entire Neighborhood

There are multiple event marketing stats that show that “doing it for the Gram” has paid off for a lot of companies. In this case, Nomadica Wine was not so lucky. In an effort to promote their upcoming canned wine launch event, the brand spray painted three deserted buildings in the dead of night. Where did it go wrong, you may ask? By failing to approve the campaign beforehand and assuming the initiative would delight and wow locals, Nomandica went viral for angering the community and paid hefty fines for doing so.

Nomadica Vandalism Event Marketing

Source: Nomadica Wine

How to Avoid This Mistake: Don’t paint yourself in a bad light, especially amongst locals. When it comes to experiential marketing, following the rules and regulations of your target area is essential for success.

5. Jägermeister Nearly Asphyxiated Hundreds of People

Jägermeister hosted a pool party to promote their newest product launch, deciding to add atmospheric smog to the dance floor using liquid nitrogen. Fans of chemistry can guess what happened next. The combination of liquid nitrogen and chlorine from the pool dispersed out all available oxygen, instantly choking guests who had to flee the area in order to regain their breath.

Jagermeister Event Marketing Error

Source: CNN

How to Avoid This Mistake: Prioritize safety over experiential marketing campaigns. Safety should be your number one priority when planning any event. Be sure to consult experts and test out all technical or chemical components of an experience ahead of time.

6. Snapple Flooded Downtown Manhattan

In an effort to break a world record, Snapple created a 25-foot popsicle. Unfortunately, someone forgot to check the weather, resulting in a strawberry-kiwi drenched Manhattan. As temperatures rose, the outdoor event forced crews of police officers and firefighters to block off busy New York streets in efforts to avoid the sticky mess.

Snapple's Marketing Fail of Epic Proportions

Source: NBC News

How to Avoid This Mistake: Consider all controllable factors. A popsicle mid-summer is a great idea—a 25-foot version? Not so much. When planning outdoor events, always take weather into consideration. Plan for every possible scenario and, if you plan on massive sugary concoctions, perhaps run a doomsday drill in case the worst actually happens.

7. Paramount Pictures Caused a Bomb Scare

Agent Ethan Hunt would not support the lack of subtlety and awareness Paramount Pictures showed the day it implanted electronic devices in LA Times’ news racks. In efforts to delight fans of the Mission Impossible saga and promote the new box office hit, the devices served to play the film’s iconic theme song. Rather than incentivizing fans to run to the theaters, the audience was terrified—to the point of calling in the bomb squad. The president of the company was fired and Paramount was asked to pay a $2 million fine for falsely enacting emergency services.

Paramount's Scary Event Promotion

Source: LA Times

How to Avoid This Mistake: Gauge perception before employing a mass event marketing campaign. Put yourself in your audiences’ shoes and assess your event marketing plan from a distance.

8. Apple Forced Us to Listen to U2

In 2014, Apple gave what they perceived as a gift to its users—U2’s brand new album, downloaded and added to over 500 million devices without anyone’s knowledge or consent. Moreover, they made it incredibly hard to delete, with many sites having to publish steps to hack the system in order to get rid of the unwanted music.

Apple's Lack of Privacy Marketing Campaign

Source: BBC

How to Avoid This Mistake: Don’t make assumptions and test, test, test. Maximize event ROI by giving participants the option to enjoy your promotions. Don’t force free stuff on attendees, even if you believe they should enjoy it, particularly if your efforts can be perceived as an invasion of privacy. Not only can it be a waste of resources, but it can also leave a bad impression.

Main Takeaways

It’s perfectly fine—encouraged even—to experiment with your event marketing plan. When you do, make sure to keep these three key points in mind:

  • Get as many eyes on your marketing as possible. A lot of these issues could have been prevented if significant fact checking and editing has been built into their event marketing workflow. 
  • Be aware of the circumstances and recent events—locally and globally. Whether it’s a political movement or local culture, learning more about the people you’re marketing to can help prevent some egregious errors. 
  • Audiences are likely to forgive mistakes if you’re sincerely sorry and can demonstrate it. Some of the biggest event marketing mishaps in recent history have quickly come and gone, while others result in permanently derailed Brands. The difference between the two? Lasting organizers immediately own up to their errors, reiterating why it was wrong, and what steps they intent to take to ensure it never happens again.

Mistakes are inevitable, but now that you’ve learned—and laughed—from the experiences of others don’t follow suit with these event marketing mistakes.

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