Negative = #fail

Pawngo, a startup on-line pawn broker (who shares investors with Groupon) thought it could attract attention and gain customers by dumping 8.000 Butterfinger candy bars on Copley Square in Boston, with a sign that said, “Thank You, Wes Welker,”  and promoting the event on twitter.


No marketing campaign should ever be built on or contain derogatory comments or references to your competitors, people or things.  Full Stop.

Boston sports fans are among the most loyal in the country.  They have suffered through heart-breaking losses and enjoyed championships.  Their relationships range from religious to fanatical.

But they are fans.  They know that they are rooting for teams, and that teams win, individuals don’t.  The Patriots as a team lost the Super Bowl.  They would have won as a team.

Highlighting a person, thing or place and making fun of it tends to alienate fans and followers.  Pawngo has about as much chance of gaining market share in New England as Bucky Dent has of being elected Mayor of Boston. (To reference another heart breaking loss.)  What Pawngo, Chevy (who belittled Ford in one of their ads) and others don't realize is that people follow teams (or brands) and an insult to a team/brand is an insult to them.  This negative impact lasts a long time.

While the CEO of Pawngo has offered an apology, it is full of marketing BS, and you can almost hear him chuckling, “gee, I am sorry” …but look at all the free press we got!  While some say that no publicity is bad, I say what Pawngo did is bad and will have a long term negative impact on them.

To young and old marketers, this is a valuable learning moment. 

To Wes Welker and the Patriots, I say thank you for doing as well as you did, we know that you tried hard and gave it your all…job well done.






3 comments to Negative = #fail

  • Chris Pierdominici

    Very true words on many levels and illustrative of how negative marketing is dangerous when it stoops to derogatory levels – that said, negative marketing can be useful in some limited/carefully-used contexts, such as when it's used to poke fun at one's own company and re-spin a negative into a positive, or perhaps a social context in a lightheartened manner.
    In this instance I see two other things that the owner of Pawngo foregot about marketing, even if one were to forego the argument against going negative – namely failure to understand one's audience and the timing of the campaign.
    If he really had a grasp of marketing, he should have realized that Boston was a terrible audience/market to try this guerilla marketing stunt in – New York City might have been a better venue for it, although I still think his tactic was flawed.
    The second factor I believe he failed to consider was timing, given that it was much too close to the Super Bowl loss to even consider trying what he may have thought was humor and that some might have potentially found funny under different cirumstances, such as engaging in this campaign a couple of weeks later.

  • Chris Pierdominici

    Oops, this is what I get when I type a reply before having my coffee in the morning.  Nice spelling on my part with "forgot", "guerrilla" and "lighthearted".  My apologies!

  • Jim Matorin

    If my senior memory serves me right, we connected thanks to the Super Bowl about a tasteless ad.  Well I am going to agree with you, but tasteless seems to work these days.  Look how Pwngo got on the map thanks to this move. 

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