Saturday 11 July 2009


I’m not an advocate of negative marketing, but after reading the story "United Breaks Guitars" a Smash Hit on YouTube! (as reported on MSNBC) , a contentious thought came to mind - that there could be ‘a gap in the market’ for a new marketing career path - namely sabotage marketing !

Don’t buy it huh, well hear me out…..

1.In the above case United Airlines get lots of coverage and can use it to show how they will learn and improve, and Dave Carroll (the inconvenienced customer) will get some belated compensation.

2.After all we have recently seen a number of cases of very smart and highly impactful ‘crisis management/turnarounds’ to handle negative publicity following inappropriate staff behavior at Domino’s (as reported on Fox) and a chicken shortage at KFC

3.Although I’m not suggesting it was a premeditated strategy in the above examples, the results are impressive. What would stop a brand thinking ‘aha’ perhaps we ‘stage’ a negative experience as a way to build a viral ‘turnaround’ story.

4.That’s why I argue that there’s a gap in the market for the ‘sabotage marketer’, their sole job would be to actively and purposefully stuff up - and yes annoy consumers!

For those inclined - some sabotage marketing tips:

a)have a ready made press release, b) get your CEO Youtube response recorded, and of course - c) your Twitter apology posted, and d) fingers crossed either Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper cover you on CNN.


Typing the phrase ‘sabotage marketing’ into your search engine produces descriptions not as extreme as the way described in point 4 above…..but you never know, so keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you find any concrete examples.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sam,

    I recall various attempts of "ambush" marketing at the Atlanta Olympics. Nike's name pops up a lot in this respect...

    Sabotage marketing is an interesting twist on this (into the dark side...?). Given that its intrisically negative, would suggest that only "bad" can come from it. It would be a considerable risk, and would take very careful management to make sure the brand came out on top!

    I like the concept though... It could be most effective if you were launching a new product with siginificantly improved features. Lets say, for the sake of looking for an example, one has a fantastic new innovation in computer fan and cooling systems. Our brand is "CoolFan". One could release stories saying "CoolFan blows up a 500 year old mansion" or "Office block explosion closes the city" something sensational.

    And then a day later, one could then release the prerecorded etc. videos and press releases explaining why the problem happened, why the competitors have the same problem, and then.... would you believe it... why the new "CoolFan mark 2" solves all of these problems.

    In that context, one could possibly get quite a lot of coverage without spending too much!

    I like it, you could be on to a winner! Not for the faint hearted though...