25 of the worst branding fails from 1995-2020

Fast Company looked at some of the worst commercial mistakes of the last quarter-century. Microsoft Vista made it in which, in retrospect, seems a bit harsh. But Calvin Klein’s controversial jeans commercial showing questionably-aged models rightly appears (I’m not gonna say outright what it appears to depict because I don’t want those words on the site). And who remembers Flooz? Or that Folgers commercial? Or the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad?

What are some of your worst branding fails since 1995? Let me know in the comments.

An oral history of the weird Folgers "incest" commercial

Folgers Coffee Brother & Sister Home For Christmas 2009 Christmas TV Commercial HD

Living in the UK, I never got to see this controversial Folgers coffee commercial. But I found out about it through this oral history by GQ:

“Coming Home” opens with a taxi dropping a young man off outside a snow-covered house bedecked in Christmas decorations early one morning. A young woman excitedly opens the door and establishes that she’s his sister by pointing at herself and saying “sister!” He’s weary, having just returned from volunteering in “West Africa,” and the two share a cup of freshly-brewed Folgers coffee while their parents are still asleep. (In some versions he even says “ah, real coffee,” as if he didn’t just come from where some of the best coffee in the world is produced.) He hands her a small present, but instead of opening it, she peels off the red bow and sticks it on his shirt. “What are you doing?” he asks. “You’re my present this year,” she responds. The camera zooms in on her shy glance, then cuts to his furtive, flirty smile. Those three seconds sealed its fate forever.

When I first saw the ad, I thought: wait, are they fucking? (Then, every time after that: okay, they’re definitely fucking.) As I would come to learn, I was hardly alone. The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion. Memes, articles, and parody videos abounded. It even inspired a genre of vividly-rendered fan fiction known as “Folgerscest.”

It is weird and does give off incestuous vibes. But the people behind the commercial didn’t feel that way:

Jerry Boyle (SVP and executive producer at Saatchi & Saatchi): You kind of get sucked into the story, which is nice. It was all very, very innocent. Obviously what’s happened since then has been a real … something that nobody imagined happening. And our client is so wholesome. It was, we thought, emotional.

What people read into it—once that took off—was just insane.

This was my favourite reaction, and the first one to notice the strange vibe between the brother and sister:

Alexa Marinos (corporate communications manager): I’m a marketer by trade so I always pay attention to commercials and ads, particularly holiday ones because I’m always curious to see how brands flex and adapt their marketing for the holiday season. I used to do all my writing in front of the television. So when, I’ll call it, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas 2.0” aired I was sitting in front of my laptop. And I just remember immediately critiquing the spot in my head as a marketer. Particularly the casting, the casting seemed off to me. I was like “why is Peter’s little sister 22 instead of four? And why is Peter, like, vibing on his little sister?”

I hope nobody ever puts a gift bow on me.

Non-creept commercial related: Commercial Break: a YouTube channel for archiving commercials

Famous people solving Rubik's cubes

Argentinian capybaras reclaim their land; are called 'invaders'; memes ensue

There’s a gated community of rich people in Argentina called Nordelta. It was founded in 1999 and lies in the north of Buenos Aires, home to luxury homes, sports facilities, even a shopping mall. However, Nordelta also encroaches upon the Paraná wetlands, which is already under pressure from overfarming, and the extraction of natural resources. And capybaras live in those areas.

So what happens when humans build on or around animal habitats? The animals fight back and a group of plucky capybaras (known as carpinchos in Argentina) has been tearing through Nordelta, destroyed lawns and infrastructure, causing traffic jams, and even attacking pets.

So what happens when animals try to reclaim their homes that humans built on? They fight back with guns. According to The Guardian, some residents have brought out their hunting rifles to defend themselves and their property.

[…] But many other Argentinians have taken to social media to defend the rodents – known locally as carpinchos.

In politically polarized Argentina, progressive Peronists see Nordelta as the enclave of an upper class eager to exclude common people – and with tongue only partly in cheek, some have portrayed the capybaras as a rodent vanguard of the class struggle.

And that’s where the memes come in. I found these on a Tumblr post that brought the whole capybara story to my attention:

They’re magnificent and they warm my heart. As for the plight of the communist capybaras, it remains precarious but campaigners are still trying to pass legislation that will protect the wetlands from further development:

“Wealthy real-estate developers with government backing have to destroy nature in order to sell clients the dream of living in the wild – because the people who buy those homes want nature, but without the mosquitoes, snakes or carpinchos,” he [Enrique Viale] said.

Here at Cultrface, we are in full support of the capybaras. Solidarity with the rodents!

Related to animals in South America: Are Pablo Escobar’s hippos good for Colombia’s ecosystem?

Cory Etzkorn on that little green dot and being online

The term “always online” describes the idea that we’re online all the time and never log off. This could be literally (sleep is for chumps anyway!) or figuratively (i.e. never logging off). In my experience, I’m more figuratively “always online” but during periods last year, my sleep patterns were messed up thanks to the allure of the internet.

Cory Etzkorn examined a visual representation of that phenomenon: The Little Green Dot and its meaning in our online lives:

The Little Green Dot is a leash. It is a surrogate for trust and thrives in low-trust environments.

The Little Green Dot is anxiety. It is there to remind us that we’re not working as hard or as long or as consistently as others. Presence favors those who can effectively sit in a chair all day, not those brave enough to step away for a walk and take some time to think.

But the reality is that The Little Green Dot also has real utility. When something important breaks, we need to see who is online to fix it. When we have a pressing question, we need to know who is available to answer it.

And so The Little Green Dot persists, despised, but understood.

Etzkorn’s final line asks whether humans should be “always-online” or whether a semi online existence would be more beneficial. I like the latter even though I’m closer to the former. I work in digital marketing so onlineness is important but I also blog and that requires research and Wikipedia rabbit holes. There’s no let-up unless I make it so. We should all learn to log off once in a while.

(via HeyDesigner)

That time Bully Maguire went on Family Feud

Bully Maguire on Family Feud

I’ve already shown my love for Steve Harvey memes but I’ve recently got into “Bully Maguire” memes, involving clips of Toby Maguire’s rendition of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. This one is expertly crafted, showing Parker trying to win a staff job with double the money. Look out for special guest star Harry Osborne.

Adverts for defunct brands and discontinued products

90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued items.
90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued Items (Part 2)

As a way to feed my nostalgia habit (and an act of self-care because the world is always on fire in some way), I watch old adverts from the 90s. It reminds me of my childhood and I can revisit adverts or products I’ve not heard of for decades. They also act as mini time capsules for brands and products that are no longer with us.

The above videos show some of those defunct brands and products from the UK, ranging from one2one (originally Mercury One2One, then becoming one2one, then rebranding as T-Mobile UK, then merging with Orange as Everything Everywhere, and finally becoming EE. Phew!) to Dollond & Aitchison (the opticians), the Goldfish credit card (later bought by Barclaycard), and Tandy.