From the “What were they thinking?” file, and the “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” file, comes the story of Coors Light’s campaign in July 2014 for Search and Rescue.

coors lightimagesA promotional campaign to get beer drinkers engaged with the brand on social media and in real life, Coors Light Canada created Search and Rescue, where they hid a bunch of briefcases around the country, and mapped them on a website. Players (age of majority only of course!) searched for them and if found, posted a photo with the briefcase and then won prizes. However, in Toronto, this backfired in a huge way.

On a busy workday during rush hour, someone called in a suspicious package at Dundas and Spadina in Toronto — major intersection — and the bomb squad was called. The road was closed, cars and buses diverted. And what was the package? Why a Coors Light briefcase of course. The Toronto Transit Commission, and a lot of twitter users, were not amused.

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Yah, not the most thought-through idea a beer company ever had (insert your own joke now about consuming too much of their own product while designing this campaign).

At least they apologized.

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You’d think someone would have researched this kind of thing ahead of time. If they had, they would have stumbled upon a campaign from 2007 by the Cartoon Network for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a late-night cartoon show. Then, more than a dozen electronic devices with blinking lights were found throughout Boston and were mistaken for bombs. Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless. Two men were arrested for putting up the devices, which were only supposed to promote the cartoon show that featured a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball. Just like in Toronto this past summer, the same blinking lights had  been in place for a few weeks in nine other American cities with no trouble, but it’s the Boston ones that made the news.

Leaving aside that this beer company appropriated the hashtag #searchandrescue, which is used on Twitter to discuss real Search and Rescue activities, where people are lost in the backwoods or in natural disasters and professionals search for them (I’m just waiting for that social media backlash), Coors Light didn’t plan very well for the kinds of crises a marketing stunt like theirs could create. Beer companies will always do stuff like this, but crisis planning should think through stuff like this.

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