Nov 19, 2021

Turkeys of the year: A review of marketing flops

Turkeys of the year: A review of marketing flops Featuring The No Normal Show of Revive

Not all marketing ideas are good ones, but that doesn’t stop some bad ideas to from reaching the market. Here’s a review of this year’s biggest marketing flops.


  • The word “turkey” is a broadway term that describes a show with a lot of previews but later underperforms based on quality. Historically this had to do with increased tourism around the holiday period, making it lucrative to have more shows at the end of the year.  
  • Our team applies the term “turkey” to marketing in this episode, reviewing this year’s most significant marketing flops. We asked our agency for their opinions, and the following campaigns were submitted. 

Notable mentions

  • Balenciaga released sweatpants that had boxers sewn into the inside that made them look like sagging pants. The United States’ history of police shooting black men with saggy pants brings to question the ethics of the wealthy capitalizing on this style.  
  • That’s why we need to take more time to research the history of the products we develop. So much time goes into product development already; this additional step would be a drop in the bucket comparatively. 
  • From a more lighthearted perspective, the Oatly SuperBowl ad polarized audiences – some loved it, and some hated it.  
  • Bud light has been chasing the seltzer craze and now has taken it a step or two too far with eggnog flavored seltzer.     

The not-so-fresh turkey

  • Subway has lost popularity amongst consumers and released a new campaign to increase sales. The “Eat Fresh, Refresh” campaign boasted a refreshed menu but offered little information on the changes and availability of new products across locations.  
  • The issue is that the definition of fresh has changed over the past ten years. Their current menu – which has the same ingredients as before – no longer meets modern standards for freshness. They have, however, reported increased sales which could be attributed to the campaign or a pandemic rebound.  

The tweet you can’t take back

  • On International Women’s Day, Burger King UK announced a program to address gender disparities in the restaurant industry by building a scholarship program for female employees. The idea itself was great, but the execution was not thoughtful (and cringeworthy).  
  • They announced the scholarship by tweeting “women belong in the kitchen,” providing context only in the tweet’s thread, which obscured critical context for the tweet. 
  • Our team expressed that Burger King UK should have chosen a different platform than Twitter to offer audiences more immediate context for the jarring statement.  
  • To avoid this mishap, marketers need to present campaigns to stakeholders in the same way their audience will experience the campaign. For example, a conference room audience may experience concepts differently if presented in a pitch deck. 

The algorithm gone wrong

  • Chris helped his dad sell his townhome this summer using Zillow’s Offer tool. The tool gives an estimate for how much the house was worth pending inspection. Zillow purchased the home for the Zestimate price, but the listing price had been cut by close to $50,000 a few months later.
  • Chris’ experience is symptomatic of Zillow’s inaccurate Zestimate tool. The business made a significant bet on the power of its data and the ability of an algorithm to predict which homes are worth buying and flipping to sell for profit.  
  • Zillow, after significant losses over the past few years, ended this house-buying initiative
  • The future is AI and algorithm-driven, but the technology isn’t where it needs to be quite yet. Placing that much money on an algorithm is very risky given the lacking maturity of current technology.