The 10 Worst Viral Marketing Campaigns

You can't force anything to 'go viral' on the Internet, but that didn't stop these 10 companies from giving it a big, dumb try. Guess who topped the list.

By Dan Tynan
Tue, August 12, 2008
Page 2

8. Cheetos Orange Underground

Frito-Lay decided that its spokesfeline Chester Cheetah was getting stale. So last January it hired ad firm Goodby Silverstein to create a viral campaign to appeal to its core juvenile constituency--and let the chips fall where they may.

The Orange Underground site features a deliberately scratchy video urging viewers to commit Random Acts of Cheetos (RAoC). "Coat your fingers with Cheetos and leave your mark. On someone's back. Someone's desk. Wherever you like." It encouraged visitors to fill people's shoes with Cheetos, crush them inside someone's laptop, or toss them into the dryer with someone else's laundry--and then post videos of their dirty deeds online.

The company set up a blog, created a YouTube channel, took out full-page ads in USA Today, and even assigned a minion to troll the blogosphere and post comments using the screen name Cheeto1.

Fortunately for the world's laundry, almost no one noticed. Online-brand consultant John Eick, purveyor of the So Good food blog, counted a grand total of 17 blogs talking about the campaign a month after it launched. He wrote:

"The creators probably assumed a campaign with this level of creativity would go viral right away. Clearly it didn't.... Did they really expect people to start pulling crazy pranks with Cheetos? Who in their right mind is actually going to go out and buy 20 bags of Cheetos to pull pranks with?"

The verdict? Dangerously cheesy.

Lame: Encouraging juvenile pranks employing fake foodstuffs.

Lamer: The video of a teenager wandering through a supermarket with Cheetos stuck up his nose. That's one RAoC we didn't need to see.

7. Coors Code Blue

Coors's online adventures started with a beer commercial built around its new temperature-activated bottles. When the mountains on the Coors label changed color, excited Coors fans in the ad send "Code Blue" text messages to each other, indicating it's time for a cold one. The idea looked so cool on the commercials that Coors wanted people to do it in real life, until the company discovered that "text-messaging elaborate 'Code blue' alerts as shown in the commercial using mobile devices would not currently be technologically feasible" (according to the New York Times).

Instead, Coors poured money into the Web, creating Facebook and MySpace pages that allowed Coors fans to send "Code Blue" alerts to their pals. Apparently, Coors has never heard of Twitter.

Cold? Maybe. Cool? Not a chance.

Lame: Naming the campaign after the term used for hospital patients going into cardiac arrest. Maybe Coors should have included a free defibrillator with every six-pack.

Lamer: Thinking that changing the colors on the label makes the beer taste better.

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