When Marketing ideas get out of hand

There are bound to be thousands of interesting marketing ideas that never get approved due to the fact that after extensive research they don’t meet the needs or interests of the intended target audience. Sometimes the ideas never get as far as the research point due to the fact that the project/campaign is not financially viable. On a rare occasion, a campaign seems to leak through the cracks and cause a lot of damage to the company involved.

Walkers Rainy Days

The adverts of Gary Lineker dancing in the rain to the tune of the Weather Girls have been all over TV recently promoting the fact that if you correctly guess where it will rain in the country on a particular date you will win £10.Sounds easy and unfortunately for Walkers it has been.

The process is simple;

  • Buy a packet of Walkers crisps and receive a code
  • Enter that code at Walkers.co.uk and receive two predictions
  • Select the day, location and time you think it will rain

Walkers have split the United Kingdom up into 21,000 individual squares which the entrant can select 1 square per day and chose a time period they believe it will rain and then that square is claimed and no one else can chose it on that day. So with simple maths if it was to rain all day all over the country Walkers have to payout £210,000. Obviously the entrant would of bought a pack of crisps to enter so for each entry made Walkers have made 40p in the sale, but this still does cover the cost of a rainy day. In the scenario of it raining everywhere all day in the UK, Walkers would have made £8,400 in sales but paid out £210,000 in prizes and this isn’t taking into account that you get two entries per packet of crisps.

Research done by Cambridge University statistics professor, David Spiegelhalter, found out that so far 1 in 8 entries have won £10 during the campaign, which means that Walkers have only made back £3.20 for each £10 prize given out, losing them £6.80 per prize. It doesn’t take a marketing expert to know that the British public like to win money and that it rains quiet a lot in the UK during the autumn months, so it is no surprise that this campaign has been one of Walkers most successful in terms of user participation but it’s a mystery how the campaign got approved by the financial department.


Here at KMP we have been taking part in Walkers Rainy Days because we thought it would be an easy way to get some extra money into our pockets and we were correct. In a period of three weeks 3 members of the KMP staff have won £100 thanks to the wet weather and in part by us simply looking at the next 7-day weather reports on the Met Office. This was up until the Walkers website mysteriously went down and returned with all the future predictions being full despite no one being able to enter.

With a bit of searching around we discovered the figures mentioned earlier and a particularly wet week was coming up. The Walkers website went down just at the point that they could be facing a potential £1,200,000 payout in a single week. Was the site going down at that point just a coincidence or was it Walkers realising that they had not predicted the size of the prize money they would have to payout in the worst case scenario and stopped people from entering?

Walkers rainy day
If the conspiracy theorists believe that it was Walkers avoiding a massive payout then all you need to do is look at another campaign which almost destroyed a famous company and brand.

Hoover Free Flights Promotion

In 1992 it started off as a means to sell the backlog of stock in the Hoover warehouses but soon turned into a battle to keep the company out of administration. The plan was to offer free return flights when the customer bought a Hoover product and then offer paid-for extras such as hotels and car rentals to offset the cost. Where the project fell down was that human beings won’t buy over priced extras when they can book a hotel themselves, for a fraction of the cost.

Hoover didn’t predict the popularity of the campaign and were unable to financially back their incentive Due to customers being passionate about receiving their free flights and following the companies small print to the letter Hoover were facing hundreds of court case on breach of contract. The campaign saw Hoover loose £48m and forced many of the top level management to resign and forever be branded with being part of “Britain’s worst marketing disaster”.

Whether Walkers have budgeted for the popularity of the Rainy Days campaign it is still a strong remind of how a marketing campaign cannot just be a failure but can potentially turn into a disaster and is a strong reminder to Marketeers that doing your research can not just make or break a campaign but also a whole company.