Badvertising: Smoke on the Water

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we look back to 2013, when Jägermeister threw a pool party that sent nine to the hospital! Fun, fun, fun! As usual, do not try this at home!

Jägermeister’s Party Was a Gas!

I would think that, if I headed a large German spirits manufacturing company like Jägermeister, the last thing that I’d want is to have my product associated with gassing people. It sort of dredges up bad memories, you know? But that’s exactly what happened in 2013, when Jägermeister threw a pool party in the city of Leon, Mexico.

Drunk man with bottle

Like every plan that ends up in disaster, it probably sounded like a sweet idea at the time. You can almost hear the event planners at Jägermeister discussing it:

“Let’s see… Free booze, hot babes, Mexico… Hey, know what would be the coolest? If we could get a wicked-looking mist to hover above the swimming pool!”

“Awesome! How about we dump liquid nitrogen in the water?”

“Yeah! Let’s do it!”

They were right, dumping liquid nitrogen in the pool did create some fantastic fog and smoke effects, but it also reacted with the chlorine in the pool, creating nitrogen trichloride, which boiled and displaced all of the surrounding oxygen. The resulting knock-out gas caused nine of the party-goers to asphyxiate, and sent one man into a coma that last for 18 days. Fortunately, they all survived. Sounds like an awesome party, dude!

A spokesperson from Jägermeister said: “We are aware of this incident in Leon, Mexico, which is currently being investigated by our headquarters here in Germany. We fully support responsible drinking.” It makes you wonder if the idea to create a toxic pool sludge wasn’t the result of irresponsible drinking in the first place.

Dive In

So, aside from a basic chemistry lesson, what can copywriters and marketers take away from this PR disaster? Research, people. Research is incredibly important. If somebody at Jägermeister had simply Googled “chlorine and liquid nitrogen,” they would’ve realized that mixing the two together was a very bad idea. A little research would have kept nine people out of the hospital, prevented lawsuits, and avoided a black mark on Jägermeister’s brand.

The same goes for any project you work on. Dive in deep. Research the client, get to know their marketing goals, both inside and out. Research gives you a distinct advantage when it comes time to craft your copywriting, develop your marketing strategy, and prepare for any hiccups that may come along the way.

I know, many people find research boring, but then those are probably the same ones looking forward to Jägermeister’s next big event: The Bleach & Ammonia Water Skiing Championships.

Jim Yoakum

Jim Yoakum

Jim recalls a priceless piece of advice that an English teacher once gave him. Throwing a dictionary onto his desk he said, “All of the words are in there, Yoakum, just put them in the right order.” Putting the right words in the right order has been Jim’s goal ever since, and he has honed his skills over the years to include award-winning copywriting, the scripting of three produced movies, the authoring of numerous novels and non-fiction books—and even a stint as writing partners with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. He is also US Curator of Chapman’s archives. To make himself even more insufferable, Jim has also produced comedy CDs and DVDs. While Jim does not lament his misspent youth, playing drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band, he does however wish he had back all of those brain cells that he ruthlessly killed.

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