In March of 2008, Dr Pepper released a marketing campaign promising free soda to everyone in America – if Axl Rose, lead singer for Guns N’ Roses released his promised Chinese Democracy album that year. Dr. Pepper thought they had a free ride, as it had been 17 years since Guns N’ Roses first announced their album in 1994. During those 17 years, the band experienced dysfunction, replacing band members, left and right, album delays, etc. Dr Pepper created their Guns N’ Roses free soda campaign, laughing at how clever they were. Dr Pepper looked like awesome music lovers, got a ton of publicity, and would never have to live up to their promise. Unless Axl Rose actually released the album.
Which he did.
When Guns N’ Roses heard of this campaign, they stepped up their game and announced that their album Chinese Democracy would indeed come out that year, on November 23rd. It seemed like it was the final push that the band needed to finish the album. Horrified, Dr. Pepper had to live up to their promise that would equate to about $165 million of soda.
Dr. Pepper again got clever, and decided that people could indeed claim their free coupon for a free Dr Pepper on November 23rd, and only November 23rd. The Dr Pepper spokesperson said that “People will go on Dr Pepper’s Web Site and we will send them a coupon for a free one. It’s going to be real easy.” People would submit their information to the company on the website November 23rd so that they would later receive a coupon for a free 20-ounce can of soda in the mail. Naturally, the website could not handle the traffic from millions of Americans attempting to claim their free Dr Pepper that day. The website crashed, and very few people were able to claim their coupon.
Just two days after the fiasco, Guns N’ Roses lawyers sued Dr Pepper for failing to make good on their promises, claiming that it ““ruined” the day of Chinese Democracy’s release.” They demanded a public apology for the stunt, to which Dr Pepper responded by making coupons more available, and stating “This was one of the largest responses we have ever received for a giveaway, and we’re happy we were able to satisfy the thirst of so many Dr Pepper fans. We wish Guns n’ Roses the best with their album.”
The Lesson: Don’t make promises you are not prepared to keep.