The Best, Worst, and Weirdest Marketing Efforts of 2012


It’€™s only a matter of days before posts that promise readers a roundup of 2012 in 1,000 words or less begin oozing from the contemporary blogosphere. Even though some websites and publications create lists highlighting the best and worst of the year based on votes or compelling statistics, we all have our own opinions on the highs and lows.

So, here’€™s my utterly subjective list of the best, worst, and weirdest marketing phenomena of 2012. Some of these warrant praise, some head shaking, and some a spot on BuzzFeed’€™s WTF page.

Best of 2012

Red Bull Stratos

On October 14, 2012, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner ascended 128,100 feet above Earth by a stratospheric balloon. He jumped from a capsule tethered to the balloon, and rushed towards Earth, reaching a maximum speed of 833.9 mph. Baumgartner broke the sound barrier and two world records (highest free fall, highest manned balloon flight) in the process. Baumgartner’€™s epic free fall was the culmination of a seven-year project spearheaded by Red Bull. Eight million people tuned into YouTube’€™s live stream of the event.

In addition to stunning audiences worldwide, Red Bull Stratos epitomized revolutionary methods of branding, content marketing, and social media marketing.

Oreo’s Daily Twist

The world’€™s favorite cookie celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Facebook campaign entitled the “daily twist. For 100 days, Oreo put its own spin on a recent event by visualizing it in cookie form. It kicked off the campaign on June 25th, debuting a rainbow-icing-filled cookie in honor of gay pride. Some noteworthy daily twists included an Oreo styled after the Mars Rover landing:

And one crafted in commemoration of the first ZZ Top album in nine years:

The adeptly designed and delicious-looking cookies of the daily twist campaign imbued the Oreo Facebook page with humor, levity, and enthusiasm.  The culinary commentary on recent happenings was not only entertainment, but it was also a way for Oreo to establish itself as the most innovative pre-packaged cookie in the world.

Social Media Mocking

This example isn’€™t exactly a marketing initiative, but it touches on something that most modern-day marketers encounter every day due to its ubiquity: social media.

What happens when something becomes an inescapable cultural phenomenon? It becomes fodder for Saturday Night Live mockery, of course. During the election season, news programs, written publications, and the population in general vigilantly monitored social media conversations and sought the so-called expert advice of social media gurus in an attempt to predict the election’€™s outcome. The problem: the overabundance of dim-witted, irrelevant, and unintelligible comments social networking sites seem to attract.

SNL poked fun at alleged social media experts€ and culled a variety of asinine Facebook comments and tweets to reveal the credence we give social media might just be dramatically inflated.

The Onion also jumped on the social-media-derision bandwagon in a comically genius fashion. It lampooned self-proclaimed social media experts with a mock TED talk given by a faux consultant who chalks up social media to doing a whole lot of nothing. The skills a social media expert boasts: lack of vision, absence of originality, and the ability to rake in money in spite of this.

Some choice excerpts from the parody:

I’m a successful social media consultant even though I’ve never had a thought or original idea in my life.€

“€œAnd remember, any teenager could have done what we did, for no money, and much faster.”€

In the new social media economy, you just have to keep looking like you’€™re doing work, and people will pay you for it.

Weirdest of 2012

Eau de Pizza Hut

Back in August, Pizza Hut Canada asked on its Facebook page, “€œDo you love the smell of a box of Pizza Hut pizza being opened? We thought so. If that smell was a perfume, what would it be called?”€ According to the NY Daily News, after receiving more than 280 comments and 180 likes, Pizza Hut Canada’€™s ad team decided to capitalize on the popularity of a pizza-scented perfume and turn that humorous quip of a post into a reality. To celebrate its Facebook page reaching 100,000 fans, the chain gifted bottles of Eau de Pizza Hut to 100 lucky pizza-eating patrons.

I imagine this perfume smells like a mixture of freshly baked dough and grease, and I’€™m unsure whether Pizza Hut Canada deserves props for managing to bottle the scent of a freshly opened pizza box or judgmental stares for poor business decisions (remember: this perfume comes after the chain launched the infamous and vile Hot Dog Stuffed Pizza).

This perfume may be genius to some and appalling to others, but I think we can all agree that it’€™s just a little (or a lot?) weird. Although, judging from Pizza Hut Canada’€™s Facebook page, it looks like Eau de Pizza is quite a popular perfume. The page is filled with comments from some of the winners praising the intoxicating, delectable scent and from others begging for a bottle. Does Eau du Pizza Hut embody branding brilliance, or does it manage to figuratively capture everything that is wrong with contemporary consumer culture in one abominable glass vessel? You decide.

English Garden Worm Gin

This isn’€™t your ordinary bottle of alcohol. A bottle of English Garden Worm Gin offers imbibers two things: one, 37.5% alcohol content, and two, an earthworm languidly floating amongst the alcohol.

Apparently, the English makers of this brand decided that Mexicans have all of the fun when it comes to drinking traditions: sombreros, tequila salt, and worms in mezcal bottles. So they decided to get in on these booze-filled revelries by mixing gin with a once-living but now-buoyant citizen of the soil. Worms allegedly enhance the flavor of mezcal, though word’s still out on whether or not the writhing, cylindrical creature does the same for gin. For $32.09, you can find out.

Face Retirement by Merrill Edge

To most of us, the future seems like some remote and distant age floating in the abstractness of time. For a company like Merrill Edge that encourages people to invest in their future, that’€s a problem. So, the company recently launched a website called Face Retirement to show people that old age will eventually come for them whether they’€™re financially prepared or not. The site endeavors to bring people face-to-face (ha!) with their grey-haired, aged counterparts and in the process, change the way they think about the future. It snaps people’€™s photos with their webcams and then reveals what they will look like at ages 37, 47, 57, etc., all the way up to 107.

According to Wired, Merrill Edge’€™s scare tactic is founded upon on a research study. Stanford behavioral economics researchers found that we fail to save for retirement because we don’€™t identify with our future selves. The researchers had study participants undergo a virtual reality simulation that showed them computer-generated versions of themselves and asked them questions about money. Those who interacted with their future selves were more willing to save.

What does retirement age look like? It’€™s pretty petrifying.

Seeing myself as a decrepit, old woman was harrowing and queer, and the whole Face Retirement process seemed to scream abnormality. The real question is whether or not catching a glimpse of pockets of saggy, wrinkly flesh flecked with liver spots will frighten us into investing in a retirement fund. What might be more effective than peeking at our unsightly and unrecognizable future selves is the fact that Merrill Edge also emphasizes how time will despoil us financially. The site reveals the future cost of a gallon of gasoline, the price of a new car, and the sharp increase in the cost of living. If I ever reach 107, I’€™ll be shelling out $ 61.59 for a gallon of gas.

I’ll also be a hideous human being, so I’€™m desperately hoping the technology Merrill Edge uses to provide us with this weird experience is inaccurate.

Worst of 2012

Brad Pitt for Chanel No. 5

While Brad Pitt can convincingly portray fictional characters in films, his appearance in an ad for Chanel No. 5 caused all of us to question his acting skills. The black-and-white commercial features Pitt rambling nonsensical, ersatz philosophical statements that might have come from those inspirational quote refrigerator magnets, all while seeming either drunk or distracted (or both).

The indecipherable proclamations and Pitt’€™s constantly shifting gaze and eccentric enunciation practically begged for parodies. And while the original commercial strangely enough wasn’€™t a joke, this spoof sure is.

The worst aspect of the Chanel commercial is probably the fact Brad Pitt earned $7 million for it.

The Backstreet Boys for Old Navy

Oh, how the once-mighty have fallen. Whether or not she’€™ll admit it, it’s the secret dream of almost every girl who reached her peak of middle school awkwardness during the 90s to see the Backstreet Boys reunited. But when the group joined together to sell Old Navy’€™s skinny jeans, it wasn’t exactly the reunion all of us former boy-band freaks pictured.

On the one hand, the pairing makes sense: a brand that’€™s fallen out of favor and a band that has squeezed every dollar out of their ever-dwindling relevancy make the perfect match. On the other hand, it makes no sense at all. The jeans in this commercial are termed €œRock Star jeans.€ The Backstreet Boys may have a knack for performing synchronized dance moves and crooning into headset mics, but rock stars? Even for Old Navy, maker of the most elastic skinny jeans, that’€™s a bit of a stretch.

Bo Dietl for Arby’s

In its most recent ad campaign, Arby’s enlisted the help of former NYPD detective Bo Dietl to launch an assault on the alleged purveyor of fresh, healthy options, Subway. Dietl attempts to uncover the falsity behind Subway’€™s eat fresh€ motto by conducting an expose in which he reveals that Subway slices their meat in a factory, not in stores.

Mudslinging at its finest, the Arby’s campaign manages to miss the point. It’€™s not really about where the meat is sliced, rather, it’€™s about where the meat comes from. Would I rather have non-fresh meat sliced in a sterile factory or would I rather have fresh meat sliced by an Arby’s employee whom I’m unsure is wearing gloves and a hairnet? I don’t know. I do know that I most likely don’t want meat from either Subway or Arby’s.

Condensing the greatness, weirdness, and awfulness of an entire year into one blog post is virtually impossible, so tell me, what did I miss?


About The Author:Olivia Roat
Olivia Roat is an inbound marketing consultant at Mainstreethost - a Buffalo, NY search marketing firm / web design company. Connect with Olivia: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin