Home > Business, News, Success > How to offend your customers

How to offend your customers

Someone thought the Groupon Tibet Super Bowl commercial was a good idea.  Actually a lot of people did.  The ad agency did, Groupon did and anyone else involved in the process and approval of that television ad thought they were going to hit a homerun.

I should do commercials


Well it bombed and was actually offensive to the Tibeten people’s struggles.  How could so many smart people be wrong, on the biggest advertising stage of the year?  How could months and months of research and preparation land with a collective thud.  Actually it’s worse than a thud.   You just told your customers that you aren’t as smart as your witty daily coupons suggest.

Getting stuck in group-think can be very, very bad once your team gets stuck in it’s own ideas.  It would seem that Groupon and their ad agency got stuck in a do-loop.  They were able to convince themselves that what they were about to do was a good idea.  They failed to get the right set of disinterested eyes on their commercial and the end result was an abject failure.  You may say, “Hey, at least they’re talking about Groupon”, but I really don’t think they set out to offend as a marketing strategy.  Go Daddy does that and I think most of us are sick of theose commercials too. 

No, Groupon thought they had a witty, tongue-in-cheek winner that people would like with a C list actor who most people recognized but couldn’t place.  “That couldn’t be the guy from Ordinary People?” Or “Hey, he’s from Leverage!”, said the one person who recognized him right away.  It was a massive failure followed by negative press for Groupon

Be careful when you and your team think that you have the best idea in the world.  Trust your gut if you have reservations and listen to the dissenting opinions in the room.  Have those discussions BEFORE you ship or conduct your service.  You might not get a second chance with your customers.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but at least be on the same continent as your consumer.  Groupon missed North America by half the planet.

  1. February 8, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Somehow I missed that ad during the game so I just watched it on youtube. Aside from being poorly executed it was heavily distasteful. I agree with you on the godaddy ads too. Like any guy, I don’t mind seeing a beautiful women, but what does that have to do with domains? If Godaddy was more like Maxim Mag, maybe they’d be killing it. (back to Groupon) I have to assume that most of the buyers on Groupon are women. I don’t think people will boycott 50% off coupons, but how do you launch an ad campaign that will insult a hurting culture and expect people (especially women) to respect you? This marks the 2nd dumb thing Groupon did. The first being the turned down offer of $6 Billion dollars by Google. Honestly, it wouldn’t shock me if Oprah said something about the heavily distasteful ad, and if that happened, well they’d be done.

  2. February 8, 2011 at 8:46 am


    The Groupon Tibet commercial really stuck out to me. How can they make such a poor decision about this ad? It just goes to show that something isn’t right with that company at the highest levels.

    If they are willing to make fun of the Tibetan people and their struggles who’s next? This goes beyond being PC, this is just down right dumb.

    Thanks for your comments Dave.


  3. February 8, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Very much agree with you and like that you have brought groupthink into this analysis. Right on target!

    What is also worth stating again — poking fun at your customers is always risky. Always. Customer relations and creative advertising is a delicate balance and they fell off the balance beam on this one.


  4. February 8, 2011 at 8:57 am


    I’m going to follow this story. I want to see what Groupon has to say about this. I hope someone can get a candid interview with someone who what involved in the decision making process with that commercial.

    It’s a cautionary note to all of us that we can convince ourselves we’re on the right path but be so far off the mark. They really screwed up.


  5. February 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    It is the NATURE of their business that makes this advertisement a smart play. They don’t want to waste time branding and building an identity because they are a 3rd party. They need only catch your attention for a second to get you to see these amazing deals they offer.

    As far as the commercial itself goes. It is unique and grabs your interest from the very start. You immediately ask yourself, “Is this for real?”…and then the payoff. They also have an ad about Saving the whales which turns into Save the Money. I think it’s clever and, if anything, brings to the surface the corruption involved in charities that claim to save people and animals.

    I have had over 40 jobs, no joke. Let’s talk about 2 of them for a minute.

    Job #1 – Working for a marketing company in Michigan as a salesman. I went from business to business selling spa packages for a salon for $50 a pop. I got $20 for each sale, my company got $30 and the salon got a marketing consultation, beautiful looking gift packages printed and sold to serious customers and a packed house.

    Job #2 – Working for a telemarketing company in Colorado where I would collect money for a variety of different charities. El Paso County Search and Rescue is the only one I can remember…but clearly a small time charity that doesn’t have the means to collect their own gifts. I got 30% of everything I collected and my boss was a cigar smoking smooth talker who drove a Mercedes.

    One of these companies is like groupon, the other is like the organizations that groupon was taking shots at.

  6. February 10, 2011 at 9:16 am


    Thanks for sharing your experience. I don’t think a company can keep going back to the insult well over and over again. That well is too shallow, as is the commercial.

    It just rubbed me the wrong way. Who’s next, Asians, African Americans, Native Americas, Irish?

    If the point was to get press, they are getting it. Even bad press is still press. People are talking about them that’s for sure.


  7. KC Runner
    June 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Great article, I agree with the post above.

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