That’s Not How It Works: 11 of Our Favorite Vintage Marketing Fails

It’s interesting when people long for the past, especially within a societal context. “Oh, I miss the days when,” the argument goes, “we didn’t have to lock our doors, people were by nature good, and those darn Russians weren’t messing around with our democracy.” vintage marketing fails

The picture that’s painted is idyllic, technicolored bliss.

But, of course, the past wasn’t as rose-colored as we might remember it. To wit: Historians now understand that Christopher Columbus would be brought up on war crime charges if he were alive today, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t exactly the model husband, and George Washington’s back-up dentures were made from actual slave teeth.

So… yeah. History’s disney-fication isn’t terribly accurate.

And the marketing of yesteryear isn’t exempt. vintage marketing fails

Here are 11 of our favorite marketing fails from days gone by.

1. Exclusive Sauce vintage marketing fails

Although this ad isn’t that weird on its face, stranger things lurk beneath.

To start, no one should be that excited about cranberry sauce. That’s wayyyy too much excitement for cranberry sauce. It’s dangerous, really. If you like cranberry sauce this much, you should be required to register with the local authorities any time you move into a new neighborhood.

Also, look at that table. Where are the parents? I’m almost certain that what preceded this meal was a Lord of the Flies sort of situation. Wait… is that even cranberry sauce at all? vintage marketing fails

2. Energy, Huh?

So… a couple things.

First, the idea of feeding straight up corn syrup to your toddler seems to be a poor idea from the start.

Secondly, what is up with that kid’s hands? Was he stung by a bee and is only seconds away from anaphylactic shock? Somebody needs to find an epi-pen, like, quickly.

Third, that expression. He’s dying, I think. That’s the only reason anyone would ever make that face. Slightly menacing, a tinge of existential confusion, and more than his fair share of rage-filled misery. Poor kiddo. Somebody give him a hug.

3. For “Deafness”

I have no idea what Catarrh is, but it sounds horrible.

Maybe not as bad as what is happening to that man’s nose, though.

So, after a little research, this appears to be how this medical miracle works: You insert the inhaler into your mouth. You squeeze the apparatus, and the medicine contained therein is inhaled into the lungs. You then breathe out and two large yams exit through your nostrils.

Voila! Catarrh is gone.

Oh, and you’re no longer deaf.

4. “Sack O’ Sauce”

“Sack O’ Sauce in a Can O’ Meat” for “quick meat meals.” What’s a meat meal, you ask? I’m not sure I’d even want to speculate. Actually, I’m not sure any of the words in this advert are even English. I wasn’t aware until seeing this that the “fine meats” industry has more internal jargon than all other business sectors combined.

Also, let’s pause for a moment and understand that this is an AD. Which means that it’s attempting to get people to actually buy and eat what it’s advertising. For example, let’s look at this sentence: “Keeps sauce and meat from mingling and losing their distinctive flavors!”

That raises far more questions than it answers. Also, I’m not sure “distinctive” is ever a complement when it comes to meat that comes in a can.

5. You Spelled it Wrong

This particular massacre scene is, apparently, an attempt to get people to buy Diamond Dye.

“It is easy,” the company tells you, “to dye with Diamond Dyes.”

It’s also apparently very easy to DIE with Diamond Dyes, as well.

Especially if you are a kitten and a terrified doll whose owner is a budding serial killer.

Did the ad work?

Who knows.

But one thing is clear: The mom in the back ground isn’t walking in… she’s fleeing.

6. Preservation

I was really disturbed by this particular piece of marketing until I realized that suffocation wasn’t actually invented until 1971.

So, these little baby boomers are fine.

They’re fine.

7. The Fifth (Tub) Ring of Hell

I did some research on this one. Apparently Pears’ soap was founded in the early 19th century, and still exists today as an Indian subsidiary of Unilever.

So, cool, right?

Well, here’s another interesting little tidbit.

This ad was bought at auction after it had been rejected as “too gruesome” for inclusion in the 23rd English edition of Dante’s Inferno.

(That last part isn’t true. But, geez….look at that thing. It might as well be…)

8. Beware: Falling Hair

This vintage marketing marvel is so audacious in its false claims that you almost have to give the advertising team behind it big props.

Just look at this masterpiece of bogus science… a tonic against hair-destroying scalp germs that work in tandem to make you bald and also cause significant “scalp odor?” Sign me up.

The werewolf hand is also a nice—if incongruous— addition. I’m pretty sure that werewolves are probably riddled with scalp odor.

9. Be Cool

Here’s a good lesson to live by, kiddos. The least cool thing you can do is write a booklet about how to be cool.

The second least cool thing you can do is attempt to sell it in the classifieds.

10. Be Taller

The best part of this terrible, terrible piece of marketing is that the company behind it is named “Tall-Up.”

That’s some classic on-the-noseness.

11. Saturday Selling Suit

In my humble opinion, this is the best of the worst on this list.

Why, you ask?

Because along with entering into the high-class world of shoe-peddling to increase your net worth one Saturday morning at a time, you also get a FREE SELLING OUTFIT.

What is a Selling Outfit?

I have no idea.

But, holy cow, do I ever want one.

Showing 2 comments
  • Nate Minneman

    Being from Dayton, I found it even more funny in number ten that somebody from there would advertise something so ridiculous.

    • Jared Crooks

      I know, right? Crazy Dayton people. 🙂

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