In the hypercompetitive fast-food industry, you'd think the giants would hire the best of the best for their marketing teams.
After all, bad marketing and business choices can topple even the biggest restaurant empires.
But the ad campaigns and products on this list are among the worst marketing ideas in history — and it took some serious retooling to get these fast-food chains back on track. Prepare to leave confused and hungry. We sure are.
10. McDonald's McDLT
In 1984, McDonald's introduced the McDLT, a burger that came in a two-sided styrofoam container.
The container housed the hot parts of the sandwich in one side and the cold parts in the other. The idea was for customers to assemble the two sections to create one big explosion of hot and cold goodness all in the same bite.
But many McDonald's locations weren't equipped with dual heating-cooling storage units to hold the food before it was served — so, customers were served lukewarm sandwiches they had to assemble like a bad IKEA project.
9. Wendy's Frescata
In 2006, Wendy's saw Subway's healthy lifestyle shtick and decided to jump on the bandwagon. The result was a line of deli sandwiches called “frescatas,” served on freshly-baked artisan breads.
Even though customers liked the sandwiches, the problem was that fresh artisan breads take too long to bake, and the concept couldn’t keep up with the pace of orders in Wendy’s drive-thrus.
Finally, the too-slow Frescata ended up on the bench, while the Homestyle Chicken Sandwich turned out to be the team’s ringer.
8. Burger King's Halloween Whopper
In 2015, Burger King launched a special Halloween Whopper that was served on black buns tinted with A1 steak sauce.
On the surface, it was a great holiday-themed marketing idea — what's spookier than eating a sandwich served on black bread that looks rotten?
Unfortunately, the answer came not long after, when customers complained that the burger was turning their No. 2s an unexpected shade of green. Yikes!
7. Domino's 'The Noid'
Few mascots have inspired more real-world havoc than Domino's "The Noid" back in the 1980s. The Noid was a red-suited villain who was always trying to foil the restaurant's plans, and customers were advised to “avoid the Noid.”
The marketing plan backfired when a man named Kenneth Lamar Noid mistakenly believed the character was a plot to make fun of him.
He responded by taking several employees hostage at an Atlanta Domino's, demanding $100,000 and a copy of the novel The Widow's Son. Fortunately, he gave himself up to the police and nobody was injured.
6. Dunkin' Donuts' coffee freebie
What could go wrong with a plan to offer customers free iced coffee? Quite a bit, as Dunkin' Donuts discovered in 2010.
DD’s nationally broadcast commercials failed to clarify that the freebie would be available in only five states. When the big day came, coffee drinkers across the country showed up for their free java and were turned away.
The only measurable outcome of this marketing ploy: Dunkin's Facebook page got buried under a pile of angry comments from upset customers.
5. Burger King's 'Herb the Nerd'
In 1985, Burger King came up with an epic marketing campaign. The burger chain spread rumors of a guy named Herb who was supposedly the one man on Earth who had not tried a Whopper sandwich.
After building the momentum for months, it was announced that Herb's identity would be revealed during that year's Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, the chain hired an actor to portray Herb as the most unlikeable guy ever — causing the media hype to die off almost instantly.
4. McDonald's McPizza
McDonald’s is synonymous with cheap foods that take about three minutes to slap together behind the counter.
This didn't hold the fast-food behemoth back from trying to add pizza to its menu. By 1990, Mickey D’s had introduced pizzas at nearly 40% of its U.S. locations.
Sadly, it turned out that pizza prep took far too long and was not compatible with the chain’s lighting fast slap-and-serve system. McPizzas were pulled from the menu — although two locations refused to give up on the idea until 2017.
3. Pizza Hut's Priazzo
In the mid-1980s, Pizza Hut wanted to cash in on the deep-dish pizza craze. The result was the Priazzo, a two-layer pie with a ton of cheese, meat and veggies among the layers.
Although customers enjoyed eating the Priazzo pizza casserole, they didn’t like waiting an extra long time for the multilayered pizza to be assembled and baked.
After just three years on the menu, this expensive and time-consuming item was pulled for good.
2. Dairy Queen’s Breeze
What could be better than Dairy Queen's iconic Blizzard?
Sensing that customers wanted healthier options, Dairy Queen invented the "Breeze," meant as a sort of “blizzard-lite” made with nonfat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Best of both worlds, right?
The problem was that DQ then added the same candy, cookies and chocolate that was in the Blizzard. Even diehard DQ fans couldn’t justify adding the Breeze to their low-fat diets.
1. Quiznos' Spongmonkeys
The Quiznos' “spongmonkeys” were probably the least sensical marketing campaign of all time. In 2004, the sandwich chain decided to make the bizarre, rodent-like creatures into the brand’s new mascots.
In the ads, the creepy critters danced, sang off-key and screeched about how much they loved Quiznos.
Kids were terrified, and disturbed adult viewers described the spongmonkeys as “Mr. Potato Rats,” “drugged up hamsters” and “hell-lemurs.” They didn’t sell many sandwiches and were dropped by Quiznos within a year.
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