Drinks company shocks customers with bottle cap message

Joke backfires and upsets customers: famous marketing fails

SoBe bottle cap message

Drinks company SoBe has always taken a quirky approach to its packaging. Inside its bottle caps it prints unexpected messages like "Grab life by the lizard" or "Marry Me". However, in a recent release of new bottles, it included what it thought was a lighthearted message - which has ended up freaking its customers out.

The message reads 'Help me trapped in SoBe factory." Understandably it has left some people perplexed, and a number of people have posted a photo of the bottle top on social media, with a question as to whether they are meant to take this seriously.

Other customers appreciate that this is meant to be funny - but think it's anything but. After-all with millions of people around the world enduring forced labour under horrific conditions - including millions of children - it's no laughing matter.

Customers have contacted the company (owned by PepsiCo), which is responding to social media messages with an apology, reading: "Hi there. We're sorry that our cap slogan caused you concern, that was certainly not our intention. These sayings are intended to give our customers a smile or pause for thought, not offence, while they enjoy their favourite SoBe beverage. We are planning on removing this cap slogan from our current rotation, however, it will take a while for existing stock to run through the market."

Marketing disasters

As always when we hear about marking disasters like this, it leaves us scratching our heads wondering how this ever made it past the original brainstorm - let alone through multiple layers of checks and approvals, at which point someone thought "Yes, that's funny. There's nothing wrong with that."

The marketing hall of shame is full of things like this. In 2005, for example Snapple thought it would encourage New Yorkers to cool down on a hot day, so it erected the world's largest ice lolly. Unfortunately (and perhaps predictably) it melted before the press showed up, and the roads had to be closed to hose off the gloop.

A year later, the CEO of a company called LifeLock was so confident in his company's identity protection services, that he widely publicised his social security number - explaining that he knew his company would keep him safe. Naturally he became a huge target for criminals and hackers, and his identity was stolen a total of 13 times.

And in 2011 the South Australian government decided to send 55 goldfish to media executives to promote a tour by Advantage SA - with a message on the bowl saying: "Be a big fish in a small pond and come and test the water." Unfortunately not enough thought was put into the logistics of transporting fish, and most of them died on the way.

Not all PR disasters like this are distant memories. In May last year, the makers of a new computer game sent a journalist in Australia a safe with a note telling her to check her voicemail. She tried to open the safe, but it started to beep, so she called the bomb squad. The experts eventually opened the safe - and found a copy of the game.

In Moscow last year an advertising agency decided to promote the idea of advertising on the side of trucks. Their infallible plan was to paste a picture of a woman cupping her breasts to 30 trucks and drive them around the city. On the first day it caused 517 accidents, and the company was forced to offer to pay for repairs for anyone who wasn't covered by insurance.

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