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Marketing Win/Marketing Fail: Russian Build-A-Bear

There’s nothing quite like an international sports tournament to boost your country’s profile. This week we take a look at how the World Cup has affected host nation Russia’s reputation. Also, there’s a lesson to be found about when a promotional event becomes so popular it actually has a negative impact on the brand.

Marketing Win: Russia

Just when you think Russia’s reputation on the world stage can’t sink any lower, new allegations keep revealing themselves like layers of a never-ending nesting doll. Whether it’s state-sponsored doping in athletics, meddling in foreign elections, assassinating enemies beyond its borders, anti-homosexual policies or annexing Ukraine, Russia’s exploits certainly haven’t won it many fans globally.

So with the soccer World Cup looming, eyes were firmly on the hosts with many travelling fans worried about the kind of welcome they could expect. Would international tensions spill over outside the stadiums? Would the tournament be a massive failure? Would fans be put off?

In the end, the tournament was a PR success for Russia. There were no significant organizational problems, no reports of large-scale violence and the host nation’s team even won some admirers by going on a strong run in the tournament.

Arguably, the way outsiders viewed Russia was so bad before the tournament, all it had to do was make sure nothing major went wrong and it would count as a win. But more than anything staging the event reminded people that a country is not its government but rather its culture and people who are still worth discovering.

This has by no means glossed over all the negatives but the fairy dust of the World Cup, which is essentially a giant marketing exercise, has at least changed the narrative slightly.

With Canada due to jointly host World Cup 2026, along with the US and Mexico, no doubt politicians closer to home are hoping some of the same magic in eight years’ time.

Marketing Fail: Build-A-Bear

The CEO of Build-A-Bear has apologized to customers after an in-store pay-your-age promotion backfired.

The one-day sale offering customers in the US and the UK buy a bear for the price of their child’s age led to long queues and Black Friday-style chaos inside stores.

Police were apparently called and in the end, the company had to call off the deal.

There is no doubt Build-A-Bear made lots of money from the promotion but it will be harder to tell what kind of impact it had on its brand. For a business that prides itself on customer service, with staff helping children to make their own personalized, hand-crafted toys, we’re not sure a free-for-all style event was really the way to go.

brands, cosumers, marketing, marketing win/marketing fail