Several of history's most outrageous marketing stunts are chronicled in Getting Into Guinness, a book about the cultural impact of Guinness World Records, which itself started out as a promotional gimmick. Here's a list of what are arguably the most bizarre.

In January 2007, the Cartoon Network created a guerilla marketing promotion for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It featured backpack-sized devices -- with wires on the back and lights on the front -- that were placed around various spots in Boston. Unfortunately, many people took them for bombs, and the local bomb squad went out on full alert. The devices were also planted in nine other major US cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. As soon as mayhem erupted, parent company Turner gave authorities the locations of the devices, and ended the stunt.
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When immigrant Nathan Handwerker, an employee at the very successful Coney Island fast food eatery Feltman's, went out on his own and opened a competitor, he had problems. First, he tried to undercut his old boss on price, but only succeeded in making customers skeptical of the quality. Next, he either had bums dress as doctors, or offered free food to doctors and nurses in uniform. Either way, the public came to identify Nathan's Famous with medical professionals.
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In 1979, the Chicago White Sox staged a now-infamous "Disco Demolition Night." Fans were urged to bring in vinyl disco LP records -- to be collected and blown up in between games -- in exchange for 98-cent admission to a double-header. Team management hoped to bring in 5,000 additional spectators, but 75,000 showed up. Many resorted to scaling walls and fences when turned away. After the first game, a local radio personality detonated the box of records with a bomb, and immediately spectators rioted onto the field, ripping up the bases, destroying the batting cages, and sending the players fleeing.
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Oprah Winfrey's stamp of approval may sell books, but a 2004 Pontiac giveaway on her show didn't work out as planned. General Motors promoted its Pontiac G6 by giving one to every member of her studio audience--276 cars for a total retail value of nearly $8 million. But while Oprah basked in good press, few people noticed that the cars were Pontiacs. To make matters worse, days after the stunt, it was announced that each "winner" had to pay nearly $7000 tax on the vehicles.
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In 1996 Taco Bell set a new standard for April Fool's jokes when it bought newspaper ads featuring the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, claiming that they had bought the national treasure and re-named it the Taco Liberty Bell. The stunt generated controversy, along with hundreds of complaints, but public opinion turned favorable when the joke was explained.
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LifeLock CEO Todd Davis gave out his real social security number in print and broadcast ads and dared thieves to try and steal his identity. This stunt for his identity theft protection service backfired when a West Virginia law firm representing multiple plaintiffs claimed that the ads were misleading because Davis' identity had been stolen by about 20 different thieves. LifeLock disputed the claim, saying that while many would be thieves were induced by the opportunity, only one was successful, to the tune of just $500.
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In 1954, Sir Hugh Beaver, Managing Director of the Arthur Guinness & Sons brewery, decided to print a record book that could be used to settle often senseless, alcohol-fueled barroom debates. He commissioned the Guinness Book of Records, stamped the Guinness logo on the cover, and distributed it to pubs throughout the British Isles. Much to his surprise, it soon became so popular that bookstores demanded several reprints and it hit the bestseller list within weeks of release.
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In 2005, Snapple set out to create the world's largest frozen juice pop in New York City. The 17.5 ton monstrosity melted too quickly, spewing out of the back of a tractor trailer and flooding streets around Union Square Park with a tidal wave of strawberry-kiwi flavored goop. There were a few minor injuries, which exposed the company to litigation potential and while the story did generate a lot of press, it was almost exclusively bad.
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In 1986 British billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson broke the record for fastest transatlantic sailing in a boat. The very next year he made the first ever crossing of the Atlantic by hot air balloon, breaking the record for the largest hot air balloon ever flown. Even his failures, such as his loss in the race to be the first to pilot a balloon around the world, and his four helicopter rescues from crashes at sea, have made headlines for his businesses. In 2004 he drove an "aquaticar," a combination car and boat, from London to Paris via roads and the English Channel, in order to break another Guinness World Record.
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In 1950, NBC's quiz show Truth or Consequences? was one of the most popular shows on radio. So when the show's host, Ralph Edwards, announced on air that he would broadcast from the first town willing to name itself after the show, he got a taker in New Mexico. Edwards made the town famous by returning the first weekend of May for the following 50 years. Today, New Mexicans affectionately call the town of 7,000 "T or C."
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Fast Company

The 10 Best Marketing Stunts Ever!

Several of history's most outrageous marketing stunts are chronicled in "Getting Into Guinness," a book about the cultural impact of "Guinness World Records," which itself started out as a promotional gimmick. The beer giant thus spawned an entire genre of marketing stunts. Here's a list of the most bizarre.

Several of history's most outrageous marketing stunts are chronicled in Getting Into Guinness, a book about the cultural impact of Guinness World Records, which itself started out as a promotional gimmick. Here's a list of what are arguably the most bizarre.

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