6 Insane PR Fails By Companies Who Tried To Get Political
If you've worked long enough, you've probably compromised your values to save your job at some point. Whether it's nodding politely at mildly sexist comments or telling the IT guy "Of course I know how to code in PHP" before outsourcing part of your job to a foreign coder, it's a lot harder to have integrity when you know your stance might mean dumpster diving for your food from now on.
Still, working at one of these places would certainly motivate you to start updating your LinkedIn STAT.
One Chain Asked Employees To Read Anti-Obama Propaganda
If you're not from the midwestern United States, Menards is a chain of home improvement stores, similar to Lowe's or Home Depot or your neighbor's unlocked garage when they're out of town. During the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Menards encouraged their employees to take an online civics course to improve their understanding of the government. Who can get mad at that?
If you're not from the U.S., caucuses are where people choose who should be president by shouting a whole bunch.
It turns out, a reporter at The Investigative Fund discovered that the "civics" materials Menards encouraged employees to peruse for implicit promotions actually had a lot in common with literature from a for-profit, ultra-Republican company called Prosperity 101. These geniuses actually get companies to pay them to indoctrinate employees with material that is aligned with 2009-era Tea Party rhetoric. We aren't using the word "genius" as a joke -- if you can get people to pay you to teach Herman Cain's version of economics, bully for you.
Here's how the Menards civics course worked: If you were a run-of-the-mill employee, you were encouraged to take a no-big-deal civics class for your own edification on your own time. The course itself concluded with an online pass-or-fail,multiple-choice test, which you'd want to take if you wanted to advance within this company who paid good money to offer these educational programs to their working-class employees. The only problem was that the materials included scientific pie charts explaining how the government was the worst and Obama hated America:
Most of that stamp money probably went to the fat Elvis.
For anyone who doesn't have three seconds to read the graphic, the pie chart says that under President Obama's administration, your tax dollars are given to "supporters" and postage stamps, ha ha. Also included in the graphic are separate categories for corruption, sleaze, and two different plumbing metaphors -- "tossed down the drain" and "flushed down a toilet." It should be noted that in addition to sending your federal taxes into a drain or toilet, you can also "piss them away," on the ground, we guess? If you aren't peeing in a toilet or a drain, you're living in a country without plumbing, so peeing away your taxes into a separate container feels like a weird metaphor but whatever -- they're making jokes.
"And if you need to unclog your toilet of government waste, stop by Menards for half off plungers and liberty!"
Finally, the last big category that sucks down tax contributions is that well-known metaphor for a place that sucks in money for no reason -- the rat hole.
Again, this "sourced" infographic appears in both Prosperity 101 and Menards' civics lessons. And if you're wondering who the puppet master(s) are behind this, we'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. That's right, it's those lovable scamps, the Koch brothers! But why would Menards want to side with the real-life antagonists from Trading Places? Why do they have such a bug up their ass about deregulation?
Maybe it has something to do with getting in trouble with the EPA a dozen times or so over the last few decades?
Manhattan Mini Storage Releases Coat Hanger Abortion Ad
It's hard to think of a self-storage business as being politically active. In fact, it's hard to remember that self-storage businesses are even a thing until you need a temporary depository for your recently deceased grandpa's analog porn collection. Fortunately, if you live in New York, one mini-storage company is always reminding you they exist with their snarky, Twitter-like advertisements:
Jay Leno-level Twitter snark, but whatever.
Manhattan Mini Storage's ads were originally just smart-ass remarks about staying in New York, but in the mid 2000s, they began to take on a slightly more political tone. See if you can spot the clever political subtext in this ad:
Hmmmm, something about climate change, maybe?
And just like every political Twitter account, it was only a matter of time before they put up something that was as offensive as it was confusing:
NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER!
Now you might think that Manhattan Mini Storage put this up as a double entendre or tongue-in-cheek reference, or pretty much anything that could give them plausible deniability about the fact that they were joking about the horrifying notion of a woman getting an abortion with a coat hanger. But Mini Storage chief branding officer Archie Coates was very careful to disabuse you of that notion:
"One ad featured the line 'Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose' in front of a picture of a thin metal hanger, meant to represent one way that women who do not have access to abortions might terminate pregnancies. In a single billboard, MMS's politics and product collided. 'I'm pro-choice and so are many New Yorkers and I just needed to do something about it,' says."
WE GOT THE SIMILE, ARCHIE. Also, do people rent entire storage units for their clothes? New York is weird. So if tragic mental imagery is something you want in your choice of storage units, look no further! If, on the other hand, you're still undecided, perhaps you should consider this wildly esoteric ad about Jews and Buddhism:
Budweiser Changed Its Name To "America"
Even though the rest of the world laughs at our beer, guns, and country music, we Americans take pride in our beer. Sure, we all have that friend who is threatening to ruin everything with their disdain for any beer that doesn't have the viscosity of molten lead or tastes like liquefied horse food (also known as an IPA), but the Average Joe still likes to unwind from a hard day at the factory where freedom is built by wrapping his hand around an ice-cold American beer while grousing about communists and millennials. And what beer is more American than the King of Beers, Budweiser*?
*Owned by a Belgian company
But since being bought by Belgian beer and beverage business InBev, Budweiser's brand as America's beer had slipped somewhat, particularly with young folks. To try and raise their profile, Budweiser decided to take advantage of "the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen" by making a not-at-all-out-of-touch appeal to that elusive millennial demographic by renaming their beer "America" for the summer.
"It's a good start, but will it be enough to pull them away from their Spirographs?"
Predictably, the campaign was dismally unsuccessful, with most people dismissing the campaign less than a week after it had started. It may have actually hurt sales, as after the campaign, only 11 percent of beer drinkers said they would consider buying Bud, the lowest point that year. Part of the failure probably lies with the fact that Budweiser tried to exploit patriotism with the subtlety of a wrecking ball, but we can't discount the fact that shortly after the campaign was announced, a quasi-sentient whoopee cushion wearing the contents of a Roomba bin for hair named Donald Trump tried to take credit for the name change.
Starbucks Suggests Customers Start Discussions About Race With Baristas
In early 2015, in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests and a national discussion about police treatment of black Americans, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decided that what Americans really needed was to have a conversation with their barista about one of the most sensitive, controversial, and nuanced topics imaginable while waiting for their grande white mocha frappe with two pumps of raspberry.
"Definitely the type of short, easily resolved conversation I want the person in front of me to have while I wait in line."
The idea was that employees would write "Race Together" on coffee cups in the hopes of sparking a dialogue about race relations with the guy who is trying to figure out exactly how late he can get to work while still plausibly blaming it on traffic. The problem (or perhaps the saving grace) was that baristas were not required to participate and the vast majority of employees chose not to because of course they didn't. Even Starbucks employees don't have the stones to make customers extremely uncomfortable and then expectantly nudge the tip jar towards them.
The campaign thankfully ended a few weeks later amid criticism that Starbucks was using race relations as a marketing ploy. While we are willing to give Starbucks the benefit of the doubt (they have a long history of supporting social issues), it's still a pretty misguided attempt to deal with a hot-button issue. Handling America's 400-year history with racism can't be done with a receptacle sporting a misspelled name and pumpkin spice latte. Who knew?
Mascara Company Compares Other Beauty Products To Torture
Putting a brush coated in chemicals that burn like hell near your eyeball sounds like a CIA interrogation method, but it's actually a widely accepted and practiced method for many women and Johnny Depp to make their eyelashes more eyelash-y. One cosmetic company, Beautycounter, decided that the comparison between makeup and torture warranted further discussion, so they began the hashtag #100lashes, a subtle reference to both mascara and savage beatings that people suffer in parts of the world.
But mostly mascara.
The driver behind this comparison was Beautycounter's belief that American regulation of cosmetics was woefully inadequate. While European markets have banned 1,300 chemicals for use in make-up, the United States has banned only 11. This lax standard on ingredients has led to urban legends like how mascara is derived from bat shit (which is, of course, absurd -- it comes from fish scales). But making sure that the chemicals people are slathering all over their skin aren't going to kill them is certainly a worthwhile goal.
Likewise, protesting the horrific punishments doled out to people in the Middle East and elsewhere is also a worthy pursuit. But how the two fit together in a single campaign is ... murky. Beautycounter's explanation is that harm comes to women in many forms, which is certainly true, but is that the comparison you really want to make? No one is disputing that cosmetics should be regulated and safe but one of these things is most certainly not like the other.
Like Starbucks, Beautycounter's goals were noble, but the execution would be better served by direct action rather than "conversation." In their defense, Beautycounter did ultimately donate $100,000 to the Girl Effect, which provides education, healthcare, and other services to women in developing countries. But maybe go for that next time, start with that, and we won't end up scratching our heads over what exactly we should be saying under your hashtag.
Palisade Peaches Thinks George Bush Did 9/11
Despite what those lying-ass Georgians have led you to believe, peaches are actually grown all over the U.S., including colder states like Pennsylvania and barren, inhospitable wastelands like New Jersey. Colorado also grows them, which brings us to the delicious peaches of Palisade Produce, a small peach farm in Palisade, Colorado.
A quick visit to the Palisade Produce website has all the info you could want about ordering peaches, seeing peach farms, and other assorted peachy milieu, but then you arrive at a tab curiously labeled "Justice."
If you make the mistake of clicking on it, you'll quickly want to devour your own face as the introductory paragraph informs you that, no, jet fuel can't melt stupid:
Did they just have the balls to quote Jesus?
Palisade Produce owner David Cox is a big advocate for the 9/11 Truth movement, and he uses his peachery as a platform to belch out clouds of wrong. At one point, he tried to parlay his success as a peach farmer into a bid for Congress, and you'll totally guess what was part of his platform:
He even posts a link to a YouTube movie called The New Pearl Harbor, which is the trendier, hipster version of Loose Change, though certainly no less dumb. The company's Facebook page is also a delightful mix of peach-related news and bonehead conspiracy theories. But at least you found out this way, before you ordered your bushel of peaches and saw this on the box:
We'd love to hear his opinion on GMOs.
When he's not writing peach-based buddy-cop movies, Chris can be found on Twitter.
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