4 Fast Food & Drink Brand Promotions That Completely Failed

By Doug Norrie | Published

Big fast food and beverage brands spend millions of dollars to get ad and promotional campaigns perfect. And many of them go off without a hitch, often yielding massive results for the core business.

But over the years, there have been plenty that went totally wrong. Let’s dive into some of the more high-profile misses with these marketing strategies.

Pepsi and Kendall Jenner


Back in 2017, Pepsi appeared to want to get in on the discussion happening around police protests and the rising tension in some cities. So what did they do? They brought in Kendall Jenner of course.

In a commercial that will have you cringing all the way through, but especially at the end, there are a myriad of protesting and clashes between groups before Jenner seemingly diffuses it by handing over a can of Pepsi.

It was tone-deaf in every way imaginable. Pepsi ended up pulling it and apologizing. 

McDonald’s and the McDLT

It was the 1980s and things were a bit weird, we all know that. So maybe me can forgive McDonald’s for the McDLT idea that they thought “innovative” at the time. It wasn’t a change in their actual menu, but just with how it was presented.

The McDLT was a standard cheeseburger, just deconstructed and served in separate parts. It was a double-sided styrofoam box that had the hot stuff (meat patty) on one side and the cold stuff (tomatoes and lettuce) on the other. Fans of the franchise hated it. 

Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice

In this case, there are differing definitions of success and failure. In 2009, Burger King came up with a promotion that offered free a hamburger if the customer deleted 10 friends from Facebook.

To say it drew a crowd is an understatement. Thousands and thousands of people downloaded the app, which wasn’t nearly the size it is now, and started deleting friends to get that Whopper. 

Coca-Cola’s New Coke

Just sticking the word New in front of something shouldn’t be *that* huge of a deal. But that’s what Coke did in 1985 when they realized they’d been losing market share and needed a little pick-me-up. Well, that and they changed the formula to try and match what Pepsi was doing. 

To say it was a failure is a complete understatement. It was a massive flop and actually made fans of the brand actively mad that they would even bother messing with a good thing.

It faced such vitriol from nearly ever market segment with a flooding of complaints that the brand was in a tailspin. Pepsi even used the dissatisfaction for their own counter-campaign.

Three months later, New Coke was no more.