"Hey, kids! Which horribly disfigured sociopath is your favorite? Get all three, and you get a free straitjacket."Executives are a superstitious, cowardly lot. They're always worrying about their "next big thing" gaining lots and lots of fans. And so when it comes to marketing and tie-in merchandise, they'll try to cast as wide a net as possible to attract a wide variety of people. This often results in Misaimed Marketing. It's when a work of fiction is promoted in a way that seems... odd to people who are already familiar with it. This most often takes the form of extremely deceptive advertising or bizarre tie-in products. Toys based on R-rated films are common; such action figures are sometimes aimed at least partially at adults, but are also often found sold in mainstream toy stores. Some companies go even further, creating products directed at kids for those same movies. It's a tad creepy when either toys or Saturday Morning Cartoons of movies that have graphic sexual and/or violent content are sold to kids. (Why, yes, your kids would love a Starship Troopers action figure...). It may also be because executives know that a Periphery Demographic exists among kids who watch shows meant for older audiences. Fortunately, retailers are starting to get wise to this and such items are often found only in specialty stores now. And keep in mind, just about every apparently misaimed retailer action will end up being justified if it makes money. There are no exceptions to this. Contrast Merchandise-Driven, where marketing may have been the point all along. Tends to happen when you've got yourself a Cash Cow Franchise. Usually happens because the people in charge Didn't Think This Through. Very often leads to What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids? See also Never Trust a Trailer, Covers Always Lie, and Contemptible Cover. Sometimes runs headlong into My Little Panzer...
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"How Toyetic Can you Get?"
Anime & Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Moe anthropomorphized Angel dolls (including a genderbent Tabris in a short skirt).
- Studio Gainax have a reputation for being absolute marketing whores who will sell pretty much any merchandise and sex up their characters as much as necessary. There's even a Rei Ayanami soap dish.
- They still haven't made a Kaworu PEZ dispenser, which would be cool in a completely tasteless sort of way.
- Just to give you an idea of the horrors Gainax has unleashed, here's a review of two catgirl figurines of Rei and Asuka which have generic anime faces, tiny underwear, and lovingly sculpted camel toes.
- That's nothing compared to the officially licensed strip mahjong game, which even got two expansion packs.
- Death Note has a really nice Ryuk handpuppet sold in shops. A Death God with a short attention span and worrying lack of morals... in puppet form. How cute.
- The Rirukotto series turns the characters from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans into chibi, cutesy Rylcot (acrylic mascot) charm. While it's fun to carry your favorite characters around, and some of them, such as Atra and Biscuit, are indeed cheerful, it gets odd when it comes to characters with darker personalities, such as Mikazuki and especially Ein.
- Tokyo Mew Mew has a few odd things. The panties are understandable, since it is a kids' show. Plastic beauty set? Nothing to do with the actual show, but some little girls probably liked it. When you get to the large inflatable Ichigo, however, you really do have to wonder.
- There are Falulu Friend Tickets available as part of the merchandise line for PriPara. Anyone who's seen the anime knows why this is a bad idea for a piece of merchandise, as Falulu dies when her Friend Ticket is snapped.
- There's Nendoroid Miki Sayaka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. While the content inside is normal, the problem comes from the tagline on the box, which also happens to be her Famous Last Words before turning into a witch.
"I'm such an idiot."
- There's a Digimon Edutainment Game called Digimon Park intended for children ages three to six. If that wasn't weird enough, one of the series featured is Digimon Tamers. While Tamers is indeed a kids show, it's definitely not a good idea to show it to kids THAT young.
- Sindy, a British Barbie competitor, had two Digimon-themed dolls released.
- In the '70s, there was a talking Redd Foxx doll aimed at children. This would be the same Redd Foxx who is famous for his "You Gotta Wash Your Ass" routine. The toy actually includes several of his famous punchlines and catchphrases, which obviously had to be Bowdlerised for its young target demographic.
- Hasbro has an entire line of fun sized Marvel superheroes ("Super Hero Squad") and related lines for other franchises (almost all "____ Heroes", like Star Wars Galactic Heroes and Transformers Robot Heroes). Chibi Indiana Jones is a little strange, but Hulkie Pokey (an Incredible Hulk toy who sings and dances in the same manner as Tickle Me Elmo) is just nuts. The cute and cuddly Punisher is straight-up madness.
- And to complement the Hulkie Pokey, they have a SD Spider-Man plush that sings "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and another with Spider-Man and his security web blanket as well.
- From the same line of merchandise comes this absolutely absurd Hulk-themed CD of children's music. There's even a song about Hulk calming down when he gets angry. Yup, they took the character whose entire concept is that he turns into a giant green monster when he's angry, and use him to teach kids anger management.
- The Hulk has also starred in many light-hearted tie-ins, including such fare as Construction Worker Hulk (ironic for a character as destructive as him) and Lifeguard Hulk (while Hulk is ultimately a heroic but misunderstood character, if someone saw the Hulk coming to save them from drowning, they'd be more likely to die of a heart attack instead).
- There are also T-shirts featuring chibi versions of the Marvel characters, with quotes like "Bad temper" for Hulk and "Doesn't play well with others" for Punisher.
- There's a little Wolverine action figure who's naked except for his Weapon X mental reprogramming gear. He's smiling.
- Quite a bit of the Super Hero Squad line is odd either for violence levels (The Punisher, Ghost Rider, and Blade— complete with Cute Little Fangs) or obscurity (would the 3-5 year olds this line is aimed at have even heard of The Sentry, Ben Reilly, or Fin Fang Foom?).
- Some have argued that they're not really going for kids, but as a nerd Guilty Pleasure that's cheaper and easier to pose than action figures.
- So Mattel saw what Hasbro did and wondered, "Why should Hasbro have all the fun?". So they approached their comic partner: DC. Their answer to Hasbro's Marvel kiddie toys? Little People DC Characters. Let's reiterate this. Chunky Fun Sized Super-Deformed DC Characters toys. For toddlers. They even have a figure of The Joker, and he is genuinely smiling—as in, a happy smile, not the usual Slasher Smile.
- There is apparently a large market for licensed military toys. We have Batman Tanks, Hulk Humvees, Iron Man fighter jets and, of course, Spidey stealth bombers. Basically, they are just cheaply made Hot Wheels or a similar toy painted in the color of the hero with the hero's logo, or in some cases, a decal of the hero, placed on it. Because nothing says stealth as much as having Spider-Man painted on your hull.
- Spider-Man Operation, admittedly, might not be such a strange idea in and of itself. What really makes it fall into this trope is the box art, which depicts Spider-Man lying on a hospital bed with Doctor Octopus looming in the background, wielding surgical implements with his tentacles. Considering Doc Ock is not only a villain but once took over Spidey's body in the comics, this has... sinister implications.
- Back when Hasbro held the license to make DC toys, one of the toylines was "Legends of Batman", which dealt with Elseworlds versions of the characters — when it wasn't doing figures based on Knightfall, the story where Bane breaks Batman's back, Bruce is briefly replaced by violent antihero Azrael while he recovered, and among the inmates Bane let loose were Serial Killers Victor Zsasz, Abattoir, and Cornelius Stirk. While naturally, the aforementioned trio didn't get action figures, it was still a toyline marketed to kids and included mentioning the events like Bane giving the Riddler Venom and making three figures based on Azrael's time as Batman.
Films — Animation
- What Disney does with its Disney Princess line — including Mulan. Nope, no female empowerment or ass-kicking Sweet Polly Oliver from an ancient story here, she's just lumped in with the princesses and put in pretty dresses and makeup. Did we mention that the whole first part of the movie is about how little being "super-girly" suits her? She isn't even a princess to begin with... but she was more popular than Pocahontas (and don't even get us started on her...), so into the line-up she went.
Ready for a night of magic, Mulan sparkles and shines in a gown fit for a princess. Soon she will meet her true love, and all her dreams will come true!note
- Dig how "Princess" Belle is never seen in the blue dress she wears throughout the movie — or with a book in hand until 2016, when it finally started showing up as a standard prop. Marvel at how Aurora wears pink (look closely; they also give her purple eyes) when she wore blue for the final third of the film. Rejoice that all your favorite heroines spend their days in toy stores posing and staring vaguely into the distance, swishing their sparkly gowns in the same exactly poses over and over again, in recycled clipart slapped onto every pink backpack they can find. Their coloring books and Direct-to-Video features are filled with stories about spring cleaning, going to the market, setting up parties for their friends, and (via the "Palace Pets" spinoff line) their adorable Canon Foreigner pampered pets.
- One Mulan doll is not only sculpted with Barbie feet (i.e. can only wear heels) but this is the product description on the back of the box!
- Princess Eilonwy is spared, but that's because The Black Cauldron was such a failure that Disney doesn't want anyone to know that she (or anything associated with the movie) exists. They go so far as to define "Disney Princess" for the purposes of the line in a way that specifically excludes her (as well as Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire) while still allowing non-princesses like Mulan and Pocahontas.note
- Merida from Brave falls victim to this as well. Initially her dolls didn't include her iconic bow and arrow, and she was outfitted in the tight, blue "royal" dress that she rips in the movie because it won't let her aim her bow correctly. There was a toy bow and arrow released with the movie, but it was sky blue and lavender, bearing no resemblance to the much more normal-looking one she actually uses. Disney and Mattel had the foresight to realize they might just need to have a "movie accurate" version, and eventually released one. It comes with her bow and regular dress, but also a sparkly cape with Velcro gems.
- Disney Stores have sold stuffed Cruella de Villes (we guess kids need punching bags), Oogie Boogies, Jafars, and Aslans, the last of which is probably a sin of some sort (at least if you're Orthodox).
- There were stuffed Oogie Boogie dolls made before the Disney Store models. They were manufactured by Applause (a name you don't hear very much of these days), and feature a Velcro front that, when pulled apart, reveal some black fabric with glow-in-the-dark "bugs" silkscreened on.
- The adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame had Frollo action figures rotting away on store shelves. Guess kids just don't get a kick out of elderly lust-crazed priests these days. There were also Barbie-sized dolls of the good guys. Yes, including Quasimodo, who also bombed in sales (likely as a result of his gonk design); one K-Mart employee recalled a tale where, a full year after Hunchback debuted in theaters, many Quasimodo figures were still shelfwarming even though they had been marked down to clearance price.
- There are Ursula fashion-style dolls in the Disney Store.
- There's also an Aladar action figure who spouts the cheesiest lines from the film and whose skeleton randomly glows in the dark.
- Disney parks used to sell plush dolls of Constance Hatchaway, a Black Widow who, in life, killed all five of her husbands for their money.
- It's not like the Toy Story franchise isn't suited for merchandising (understatement of the year, in fact), but one particular toy, of the telephone character in the third movie, has a speech function... and it sounds a bit odd to have a toy designed for 3-year olds say lines like "I've been here for years, they'll never break me!" in a Film Noir style accent. If one is familiar with the toy, the lines "I've been here for years!" (the original toy is over 40 years old) and "They'll never break me!" (it was made out of wood and sturdy plastic, and is virtually unbreakable) are a lot funnier.
- Oh, and there's two toy sets based off the climatic incinerator scene, where the toys are very nearly melted into slag. One's a LEGO set. In fairness, both put more emphasis on depicting the conveyor belt leading to the incinerator, which is a fairly action-y sequence before the solemn final part sets in.
- Disney villain merchandise can be taken as subversions; the villains in a Disney film are traditionally the most memorable, iconic, and terrifying parts of the movie. Just see Maleficent, who even got her own live-action spin-off reboot movie.
- Inside Out:
- Hot Topic sells an exclusive Funko Pop! figurine of Bing Bong that's translucent. Fans who saw the movie were outraged by this, since he fades away towards the end of the film. Only a few fans, however, see the figure as what it really is: a reference to Bing Bong being an Imaginary Friend.
- Similar to the Man of Steel example below, most children's books based on the film censor Bing Bong's "death". They either skip over it or explain that he "said goodbye" instead.
- Takara Tomy Arts made a set of Inside Out-themed car toys: one featuring the entire cast, and two based on Sadness and Bing Bong. The first two are fine, but then you take a look at the Bing Bong-inspired one◊ and realize that it's a construction vehicle not unlike the ones that destroyed PreSchool World and pushed his rocket wagon into the memory dump, setting up one of the film's many bittersweet moments. Also the Sadness one kind of looks like an ambulance. Make of that what you will.
- As noted in the Associated Press' review of Over the Hedge, a film that satirizes commercialism and suburban people who keep buying stuff, the movie had tie-ins with brands such as Walmart and Wendy's.
- A toy set for the Disney Fairies movie Secret of the Wings featured all the characters in bathing suits at a beach. The central conflict of the movie was caused by the fact that "winter fairies" cannot be in warm or sunny places, or they'll literally die, making a beach-themed playset featuring said fairies... rather morbid.
Films — Live-Action
- One of the biggest inspirations for this trope: the stuffed animals and PEZ dispensers (!?!) of nearly all the major nonhuman characters in His Dark Materials. And that's not to mention the plastic toy Alethiometers given away at Burger King. These were all meant to promote The Golden Compass movie.
- Half this, half Villain Decay: You know you're not going to be seeing Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees do anything really horrible after they've been deemed okay for child-sized Halloween costumes. Freddy is an especially disturbing example, since he's canonically a child murderer, and in some versions a pedophile as well.
- Though this is probably more a case of wild age-inappropriateness, considering that child-sized pimp costumes have been made.
- Halloween costumes in general, especially those for preteen girls, have become rather horrifyingly inappropriate.
- This goes all the way back to the '80s—there were Freddy Krueger glove toys for kids (they have fake plastic knife blades attached to the fingers). And they're sized so that any kid over about 10 would probably have trouble fitting their hand into the toy. Yeah.
- Speed Racer had a tie-in toy line, video game, and all sorts of other merchandise. This is despite the fact that the film itself attacks consumerism and the cold greed of capitalism.
- This bit Warner Bros. in the butt something fierce when Batman Returns was released and turned out to be a significantly darker and more violent film than its predecessor. Complaints about kid-oriented tie-ins like McDonald's Happy Meals made it to at least one talk show, and Nickelodeon apparently canceled a contest where the winning kid would attend the London premiere. This outcry is one reason the Joel Schumacher-helmed films that followed wound up significantly Lighter and Softer.
- What makes this even more bizarre is that Hasbro deliberately misled gullible consumers into thinking Batman Returns was a different kind of movie entirely by releasing some In-Name-Only "deluxe" Batman figures that have him wearing costumes that aren't even in the movie, such as "Jungle Attack Batman." (Remember seeing any jungles in Batman Returns? We sure don't.) They also included Robin in the line, a character who doesn't appear in the movie at all!
- There was also a Batman Returns coloring book that offered kids all the big scenes from the film to color but bowdlerized all the gore and violence. And removed Selina Kyle's glasses.
- The Dark Knight had toys being released for a movie that some critics are surprised didn't score an R rating.
- The kid-sized Batsuit that ties into The Dark Knight comes with a gun. Let's repeat that: A Batman toy comes with a gun. It receives a lot of focus in the commercial too. Whether it's just a case of not knowing anything about what the toy was promoting, or whether they knew Batman's a legendary Gun Hater but just wanted to make more money, is an unsolved question...
- Long before that, there was a toy called the "Batman Blaster"(?), which is basically a nerf gun that straps on like a harness and has wings that pop out of the back.
- In Argentina, The Dark Knight was promoted with coloring books, Burger King toys, action figures, juice and candy.
- There are not just one, but two children's books based on it. And, oddly enough, they're kind of adorable...
- Plenty of "easy reader" books and coloring books, too. Though we should all be grateful they didn't do Happy Meals this time.
- Behold the unintentional hilarity of a children's book about Bane.
- Australian fast food chain Hungry Jack's, basically the Aus version of Burger King, did run TDK-themed toys in their kids' meals, and in America a cereal brand packaged tiny Batman and Joker figures. They sold out very fast, by the way. Both Hungry Jack's and Burger King also regularly produce variants of their Whopper hamburgers branded as a burger based on/inspired by whatever hot new film is currently doing the rounds (the aforementioned The Dark Knight was one of the first examples). You have to wonder, because really, they barely alter the burgers at all, and most of the films don't even have the slightest connection with the things.
- While mild compared to the examples of the Batman movies, Man of Steel received an "I Can Read" children's book adaptation, which has this gem; "Clark's new foes have superpowers just like he does. The battle is fierce, but Clark wins. General Zod and his helpers retreat back to outer space.", as well as Zod saying "Ouch". Anyone who has seen the movie will not only know that it is certainly not very kid-friendly, but that Zod and his crew do not make it out of the final battle alive, and Zod's death is quite dark, done via a Neck Snap courtesy of Supes. And it too has a tie-in toyline, containing action figures and costumes meant for children as young as 4.
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got a recorder. A cheap plastic flute that has a plastic circle with the film's logo stuck on it. And it's an actual licensed product. What this has to do with the movie is a complete mystery.
- It's actually quite understandable that toys would be made for Batman and Superman movies, given that the characters appear in a variety of children's media like cartoons and video games. However, some comic characters don't have that excuse. For instance, Toy Biz released a line of figures for the first Blade movie, despite it having an R rating and being one of the bloodiest comic book films ever made at that point. Plenty of parents take their kids to PG-13 superhero movies, but far fewer are likely to take them to a gory, R-rated vampire flick, even one that happens to star a Marvel Comics character.
- Somewhere in byzantine tax codes (Toy Biz v. United States), dolls representing humans end up getting taxed heavier than toys not representing people (such as dollhouse tables or kitty cats or whatever). To capitalize on this during the release of the X-Men movie, attorneys for Marvel successfully argued that mutants are not people. They got the favorable tax rate — and the X-Men's main message was completely broken. This sets a worrying legal precedent...
- Back in the early 1990s, there were Alien and Predator toys geared for kids. Yes, you heard right. A toy franchise based on two R-rated movie franchises. This included a facehugger that slips over the human action figure's head and a baby Xenomorph.
- Earlier than that — an Alien action figure was in toy stores back in the 1970s immediately after the film was released. It was said to be the first ever toy based on an R-rated movie.
- ALIEN! ACTION FIGURE! Apparently they are pretty expensive these days, for collectors who want to get their hands on one.
- Let's not forget the Micro Machines Aliens Action Fleet sets back in the 90's. After all, what kid wouldn't want a set with a Kane action figure featuring "real chestburster action"?
- It gets better (or worse): there are even Alien plush toys. They're adorable, but it's difficult to picture a child playing with a cuddly facehugger.
- And let's not forget Rambo - because kids definitely need a figure representing a near psychotic Vietnam vet who destroyed most of the town in First Blood. (Not to mention the original ending has him committing suicide.) One of the most infamous? Bubble gum. Designed to look like shrapnel.
- The Terminator 2: Judgment Day line of action figures, released to tie in with a very violent R-rated movie. While Terminator 2 is quite toned down from the first (for one thing the terminator is no longer a killer, but a kid friendly bodyguard that does what you say) it was still an R rated movie that no kid has any business seeing. T2 also had a plug in the July 1992 issue of Disney Adventures including a villain feature that highlighted the T-1000 (a liquid metal killer that brutally executes multiple people over the course of the film). In a magazine that's marketed to children. What were they thinking?
- There have been toys and a cartoon series made of RoboCop (1987), an already R-rated feature that almost got slapped with an X rating just for how violent it is, and openly features nudity, heavy swearing and Black Comedy and a lot of satire on such subjects like capitalism, corrupt corporations, and public apathy that would fly right over the heads of any kid.
- Coloring and puzzle books for the David Lynch film Dune, which features graphic violence and murders, lots of folks in latex and tubes up their noses, a pus-faced psychopath who kills his male sex slaves by uncorking their hearts, and of course a gigantic fish mutant with a vagina mouth. The coloring book makes sure to provide lines on Baron Harkonnen's face so children can choose different colors for his facial pustules. The movie is rated PG-13, but this was just months after the rating was introduced in 1984; it's possible Universal expected a PG when they inked the licensing deals, anticipating a Star Wars-esque hit.
- The first Star Wars prequel was merchandised to hell and back. At the time, big box stores would have aisles where everything had a Star Wars character somewhere on the label;
- The Queen Amidala Galactic Body Wash.
- Learn Letter Sounds With Sebulba coloring book; nothing like having a murderous bully who is willing to cheat in a podrace and kill anyone who gets in his way to win, including a child racer, teach your kids how to learn letter sounds, especially when you consider that he doesn't or can't even speak basic!
- This horrifying◊ Jar Jar Binks Push Pop was certainly the lowest point.
- There's also something both disturbing and hilarious in the fact that there's an official Anakin Skywalker lightsaber toy that changes from blue to red with the push of a button, so kids can switch from good to evil just as easily as Anakin.
- Two different LEGO minifigures depicting Anakin/Vader horribly burned and scarred after the Mustafar duel are available in two sets, one of which is completely devoted to the scene where he's rebuilt into Darth Vader! At least he has all his extremities... for now.
- Darth Vader is one of the most successful examples of Misaimed Marketing in pop culture, as a Breakout Villain that became the Series Mascot. Presented as a cruel and terrifying villain in the movies, Vader became very popular with viewers of all ages (including young kids), and so his sinister black helmet appears on everything from cereal boxes◊ to coloring books. This may have hurt the character's impact, as Vader became more and more known for being a pop-culture/marketing icon than anything, giving him a reputation as a "cool character" akin to a superhero rather than a legitimately menacing one. Disney's Star Wars movies, at least, seem to be aware of this phenomenon. The entire issue is deconstructed with the character of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, who can be summed up as "how would a typical Darth Vader fanboy fare in a universe where Vader was a very real person who committed very real atrocities?" In addition, both Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels update Vader to be menacing by 2010's standards, presumably so audiences can take him seriously as a villain again. Both Ren and Vader continue to suffer from the same sort of misaimed marketing.
- There is a Jar Jar Binks talking alarm clock doll that tells the time, says phrases from the film, and is able to wake you up...by vibrating! note A Christian spoof site may have noticed this, and wrote an article warning parents of the potential the doll has to be used as a masturbation toy, although they got some of the details of the doll wrong, like how they claim the doll is life-sized, and they leave out the fact that the doll vibrates.
- This Tumblr post shows a lot of odd Jar Jar Binks merchandise, including the infamous Push Pop.
- There was actually an Austin Powers talking doll with two intended releases: one meant for sale at Toys "R" Us that said "Yeah, baby, yeah!" and one meant for Spencer's Gifts and collector shops that said "Do I make you horny, baby?" And yes, some of the Spencer's variants did wind up among the Toys "R" Us versions. And yes, the media made a predictable uproar about it. Someone lost their job over that marketing decision, you better believe. Whether or not it was someone who had even met the actual decision-maker is another story.
- A toyline tied in with the Alec Baldwin version of The Shadow. Yes, that film received a PG-13 (many feel doing so undermined the film), but the film still keeps the Shadow as an outlaw who works without police approval (Commissioner Wainright Barth mentions early in the film that he will order his subordinates to stop the Shadow from interfering in police business). The film also depicts the Shadow as a reformed opium warlord who had a rival slain, even though doing so also slew one of his own loyal men.
- The X-Entertainment blog has an entry of two products based on A Nightmare on Elm Street: A Freddy stress doll and a Freddy yo-yo.
- There were McDonald's Happy Meals for James Cameron's Avatar. The idea of kids' meal toys for PG-13 movies isn't new, but Avatar has too many adult themes and is too obscure among kids to really deserve a Happy Meal line. They also have a reusable sticker book. Next thing we know, they're going to have coloring and activity books for the sequel. Oh wait, they already have those.
- There was some feminist outrage over the marketing of an action figure based on Quentin Tarantino's character in Planet Terror, who is credited simply as "Rapist". Some of it was possibly-justified disgust at seeing action figures labeled "Rapist" in stores, but some people who weren't aware of the adult geek market for action figures assumed that they must have been being marketed to children.
- And then the same thing happened again with Django Unchained, where action figures were pulled after only a couple of days on sale after protests from African-Americans that the toys were making light of slavery. (Inevitably, those that did get sold are now going for stupid prices on auction sites.)
- Jurassic Park subvert this, as they have parent notes on the back. Dinosaurs are just awesome to kids in general; plenty of people had them in one form or another long before the JP movies were released. The connection to JP is probably just because it's easier to brand something as "Movie-related dinosaur with flesh-eating action!!" rather than "Generic T-Rex #3".
- Some of the toys let you do "dino-damage" (as per the commercials) in your action figures' dino fights. Yes, you can have your toy get its flesh ripped off, showing muscle and bone beneath. You know, for kids!
- The video games "Operation Genesis", "Park Creator" and "Jurassic World: The Game" subvert this trope; they allow you to make your very own dinosaur park and succeed where John Hammond and Simon Masrani failed… as long as you play your cards just right.
- The Mix-and-Match Critters toys made to promote Jurassic World. Nothing says "making homicidal genetic hybrids is a terrible idea" like toys that allow you to make homicidal genetic hybrids!
- There's a Roger Rabbit game where the goal is to flip toons into Dip. Short video here by Jeepers Media.
- Kick-Ass action figures, of Kick-Ass himself and Hit-Girl. The best part is that the word "ass" is obscured on the packaging both times it appears, first by graphics of the characters, and then by a spray-paint smudge effect, so the figure can be sold at more mainstream retailers like Toys 'R' Us. There are also Halloween costumes.
- Barbie dolls of the various Bond Girls. Yes, they had the white bikini.
- As far as Barbie dolls go, there are two kinds - the kid toy "Pink Box" Barbies, and the "Black Box" ones marketed to collectors, which tend to be more for adults. But to a lot of people, a Barbie is a Barbie, whether it's meant for kids or not.
- The release of The Hunger Games in theaters brought out bushels of merchandise. Some of the things include a magnetic story book (recommended for ages 5 and up), tribute bracelets, figurines of the tributes, costume replicas, and socks. Nothing says family friendly like children being forced to brutally murder each other for entertainment!
- A particularly Egregious case of this is the commemorative pin that is a replica of Katniss' Mockingjay pin. While it seems nice, anyone who's read the book would know the importance of the pin and why it probably shouldn't be given as a present lightly.
- A Starship Troopers toyline was released by Galoob in 1997. Yes, a toyline based on an R-rated film that has lots of blood, gore, political satire, and nudity.
- Judge Dredd had a range of action figures. The movie is toned down significantly from the ultra-violent and cynical comic, but is still hardly for kids; Dredd is still a totalitarian beat cop from a crime-ridden Dystopia, after all. More bewildering is the fact that in order to bulk the range out, it included several decidedly kid-unfriendly characters from the comic who don't appear in the film, including Judge Death, an Omnicidal Maniac whose favourite modus operandi consists of ripping people's beating hearts out of their chests, and has even murdered children on-panel.
- Burger King had Kids' Meal toys which were tie-ins with the movie Twilight: Eclipse — a PG-13 film. Creating tie-in toys was apparently a real strain: one of the "boy" items was a wallet.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a film that eventually revolves around HYDRA being in SHIELD all along and using a horrifying brainwashing technique on Bucky as well as their plans to kill people with a satellite. Basically, it's PG-13 for a reason. So imagine the stupidity behind the release of a children's book around Falcon, with the immortal lines: "Bucky had turned mean. He was out hurting other people!" (said over a picture of Bucky with a rocket launcher and flaming cars behind him.) and "Bucky got away on a helicopter." (Remember when that happened in the movie? Yeah.)
- There was a lot of child-aimed merchandise for the Ghostbusters remake, including toys aimed at children as young as 3, "I Can Read!" books and even a Golden Book adaptation of the film. Considering the movie opens with a joke about queefing, this is an... interesting marketing choice.
- Half this, half Misaimed Fandom: People make replicas of the One Ring as wedding rings. What does that say about your marriage? There's also Lord of the Rings navel piercing rings!
- J. K. Rowling rejected a lot of hypothetical Harry Potter merch. Her least favourite idea was the "Moaning Myrtle toilet seat". This mindset makes the existence of this Quidditch "levitation skill game" even more odd.
- How many Harry Potter fans actually wanted to know firsthand what an earwax-flavored Bertie Bott Bean tasted like anyway? Jelly Belly apparently used bad flavor mixes for the nasty ones (the vomit-flavored bean was an abandoned attempt at making a pizza-flavored candy).
- There's also the "slime chamber" playset, released around the time of the second film. What this has to do with Harry Potter is anyone's guess, as there is nothing resembling a slime chamber in any of the books or films. Oh, and the Harry Potter action figures you're supposed to pour the slime on, Nickelodeon-style, aren't even included in the set! Really, the closest tie to Harry Potter is the fact that the slime chamber rather vaguely resembles the Chamber of Secrets.
- Cute Scabbers plushies were made in conjunction with the first two movies, when anyone who'd read the third book, released two years before the first film, would already know that Scabbers turns out to be a creepy little man who betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort. A different set of plush Scabberses, complete with missing toe/finger, are available at the Harry Potter sections of Universal parks.
- They had Twilight toys at Burger King. No, really. Not only that, but half of the toys were for girls and half were (purportedly) for boys. Predictably, the toys stayed in bargain bins months after the promotion ended.
- ...Not to mention the Twilight Barbie dolls. The Edward doll has glitter skin. There's also a Jacob doll which comes wearing only its pants.
- To celebrate the release of The Film of the Book of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Vermont Teddy Bear company released a teddy bear based on the novel. It looks like a child's plaything, but it's clearly marketed to adults and is $90.
- Matchbox once did a Mercury Sable wagon (from The '80s!) with The Brady Bunch tie-in markings.
- Breaking Bad plushies and action figures exist. Because who doesn't want a huggable version of a former chemistry teacher turned vicious drug kingpin? Notably, a petition started by a concerned mother in Florida resulted in Toys 'R Us removing the action figures from the chain's toy stores (although they were present in an "adult" action figure section away from the majority of the toys).
- CSI, despite being adult-oriented, has crime scene kits for kids, even if they're aimed toward older kids. Also there are a series of kids' chapter books based on the series, although with more kid-friendly subject matter than the series.
- Hasbro's Rocktivity toys may sound reasonable, until you get to the fine print: the microphone plays "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga and the guitar plays "Rock and Roll All Night" by KISS and "What I Like About You" by The Romantics. Keep in mind that these toys are meant for toddlers.
- One toy in the franchise, a piano, plays three arguably adult songs. "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard is the most kid-friendly of the trio, but "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel and "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles?
- Pro wrestling figures, a sport not meant for kids in the slightest, though even during the Attitude Era kids still watched! When the entirety of WWE went TV-PG the Periphery Demographic of children was even more aggressively marketed towards, and even though the programming is now Lighter and Softer, it's still a bunch of sweaty musclemen beating each other up, hardly something a young kid ought to be watching. However, this is to be expected when every other adult-oriented movie/show/what have you under the sun gets merchandise like this. WWE infamously threw a bigger fit over Ring of Honor continuing to make money off the sale of Kevin Steen action figures after they signed him than they ever did over anyone selling DVDs (and Kevin "antichrist" Steen action figures are themselves an example).
- Wendy's Japan did a movie tie-in for, of all things, Titus. Yes, Julie Taymor's R-rated adaptation of Shakespeare's bloodiest play, which culminates in two characters being cooked into a pie and fed to their mother. Enjoy your burger.
- Cirque du Soleil makes little collectible figures and/or cuddly plushies of prominent characters from several of their shows. The Green Bird from La Nouba, the Ladybug from OVO, and a Zebra girl from "O" are all natural choices for such treatment. Tarantula, the sinister spider in black from Zarkana...not so much.
- The first live-action movie is rated PG-13, yet the toyline includes some gimmick-based assortments, including a cutesy "Cyber Slammers" version of the deadly Decepticon tank Brawl (a.k.a. "Devastator"). Parent groups were not happy.
- The Star Wars Transformers line. Had both Star Wars and Transformers toys been made by the same company in the '80s, they could have bankrupted their competition through the sheer awesomeness of the combination. Seeing as how both have been around for nearly the same amount of time, it seems a bit forced.
- Another example of misaimed marketing in Transformers is the IDW comics original character Drift. While more a canonized fan-character, the company played him up, as they believed his Japan-centered drift racer car mode, red and white rising sun deco and dual samurai swords would appeal to the fans, who ended up finding his Creator's Pet Japan-shilling slightly insulting. That said, Drift's toy is pretty much agreed to be awesome by the fans, even those who detest the character. On the other hand, the toy was later retooled as Blurr (with a new set of guns to replace the swords), so Drift-haters can still experience the figure without actually owning a "Drift".
- The latest case of Transformers-related misaimed marketing: action figures for Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. For those keeping score, Fall Of Cybertron and its predecessor, Transformers: War for Cybertron tell of the utter brutality of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons; and depict the robots actively killing each other, something that's usually glossed over in most Transformers adaptations, but is becoming increasingly common in works following Beast Machines. The real kicker, however, is that people complain about the toys for the live action movies; but have yet to say anything about Fall of Cybertron Optimus Prime and Jazz figures being sold in conjunction with one of the darkest Transformers adaptations yet. The Combaticons even got kid-friendly brightly colored decos, as Hasbro believed the more subdued colors of the in-game model wasn't eye-catching enough on store shelves.
- NASCAR Barbie. Really. On the plus side, it's milder than most of the examples shown here.
- LEGO presents a very odd example. In 2013, we got a set based on The Dark Knight Rises (see Film above), aimed at children ages 6-12. Then, in 2014, we got a set based on The Simpsons... for teens/adults in LEGO's Periphery Demographic of ages 12 and up. Never mind that, while both are aimed at adults, TDKR is a very dark and gritty superhero film, while The Simpsons mostly consists of not-too-risqué satirical humor. On the other hand, LEGO ages their products by how difficult they are to build, not by who the license is targeted at-the 12+ sets targeted at the Periphery Demographic are generally much more complicated.
- Halo Wars toy sets by Mega Bloks. It seems reasonable, until you remember that the Halo series in general (until 5) is rated M. Mega Bloks in general does have a tendency toward going for licences that fall under this trope.
- Ditto for Call of Duty Mega Bloks.
- This can enter weird territory when you remember how similar Mega Bloks is to LEGOs, which have removable limbs. This fits a little too well in a kid playset based on a violent FPS.
- Funko Pop! released the Red Knight figure from Dark Souls III. While it is cool to finally have a knight figure from the box cover, the description on the official blog may lead to a Mood Whiplash if you've actually completed the game. The Red Knight is everything but the only hope of humanity. Specifically, he's the Final Boss and the manifestation of every last unfortunate Lord of Cinder, doomed to live inside Animated Armor for eternity.
"Return to the unforgiving terrain of the Dark Souls series as Red Knight and take down a Lord of Cinder! The Age of Fire is upon us and the Red Knight is our only hope!"
- At the height of Street Fighter II's popularity in the early '90s, Hasbro produced a line of Street Fighter-themed G.I. Joe action figures. This doesn't seem too bad until you realize that like the rest of the G.I. Joe franchise, the Street Fighter line came with things like guns, rocket launchers and military vehicles. For a video game series centered entirely around hand-to-hand combat. Whoops.
- In the mid-2010's, Konami decided they wanted a piece of the Gainax pie and started almost literally whoring out their characters and IPs on fanservice games (mostly Japan-exclusive, for reasons not at all unclear)—including on works that barely any sane human being thinks of as being sexy. This has resulted in weirdness like the infamous "erotic violence" Castlevania slot machine and an ecchi Bomberman arcade game. Much earlier there are also Gradius slot machine with anime cutscene and blatant fanservice, also a Contra slot machine with a fanservice character added for pretty much no reason.
- Being a huge Cash Cow Franchise and one of the biggest properties for Viacom, SpongeBob SquarePants has fallen into this trope way too many times, especially when it comes to merchandising aimed at children younger than its' 6-12 year old target demographic. It doesn't help that it's literally the first thing Nickelodeon airs once their Nick Jr. block ends.
- In 2009, Burger King advertised kids' meals based on the show with a commercial featuring... a "Baby Got Back" parody music video: girls in hot pants with square appliances on their backsides shaking their booties to "I like square butts and I cannot lie!" to hock fast food and cheap toys to 6-year olds, with The Burger King standing around them. While this actually fits pretty well with a series that has its own subpage for Getting Crap Past the Radar, the marketing itself is undeniably Misaimed.
- There are SpongeBob SquarePants products aimed towards babies and toddlers, like this potty training seat and this baby romper. Mind you, SpongeBob is rated TV-Y7, meaning it contains elements that may be considered inappropriate for very little kids. Not to mention that SpongeBob might harm a preschooler's brain! And yet the products still sell: this review states that their 2-year-old son thinks that SpongeBob is better than Elmo because Elmo's a "baby show".
- At one point, Nickelodeon planned to make an entire line of ''SpongeBob'' merchandise for babies, but cancelled it for unexplained reasons.
- There are SpongeBob baby wipes and rectal thermometers on the market.
- As with all Nickelodeon networks, promos for the show air on Nick Jr. in between shows. Yes, a show Nickelodeon admits is not for kids under 7 has promos that air on a PRESCHOOL CHANNEL!
- Even with Nick's insistence, new toddler merchandise still gets made. Fisher-Price's Imaginext line and Leap Frog make SpongeBob toys and games that are for children ages 4-7 and are placed next to Caillou and Thomas the Tank Engine toys at toy stores. One such piece of merch is a card for children celebrating their fourth birthday.
- Even crazier is that Mattel produced SpongeBob toys under the Fisher-Price name in the mid-2000's. Because of this, some retailers advertised the toys as being for preschoolers◊.
- Cablevision, a New York-based cable provider, once had a commercial with a toddler crying over the episode of SpongeBob he was watching being halted by a bad Wi-Fi signal. Cablevision then possibly realized that the show was not for toddlers and pulled the ad after a week and a half, replacing it with another one where a girl asks to watch "cartoons", without any actual programs being shown, leaving it to the viewer's imagination to wonder what she was watching.
- An ad for a car when the show first came out on DVD shows two kids watching the show. Whilst one kid is in Spongebob's target audience, the kid who wants the DVD put in is no older than four years old.
- A Tennessee mall held an event featuring a meet and greet with the characters as part of a pirate-themed anti-bullying initiative. This may seem like an innocent choice for a meet and greet, until you realize that some episodes do contain bullying in them...
- A SpongeBob SquarePants-themed Thomas the Tank Engine train◊. Yes, a preschool show crossed over with something that isn't for preschoolers.
- Downplayed example: In 2012, McDonald's did a SpongeBob Happy Meal tying in for the Olympic Games in London, which is an odd choice for a collaboration, since the show is not British.
- There are SpongeBob phonics books for toddlers, being one of the earliest products made for that demographic, with the first version of such program coming out at the same time as the Fisher Price toys.
- Another Burger King gem, this time with The Simpsons toys. Y'know, the show that's dealt increasingly bluntly with subjects like animal and child abuse, politics, drug abuse, alcoholism, smoking, anti-establishment jokes, sex, murder, organized crime, torture, and war. And it references a lot of things that only adults will get or remember - a lot of its humour will even go right above kids' heads.
- Similarly, White Castle once did a promotion with Family Guy that was aimed at children, and there was once a set of kids' meal toys from the series in The Noughties that were released in Russia, of all places.
Other Marketing Oddities
- For a strange time period in the late '80s/early '90s, everything and its mom and its dog had a tie-in breakfast cereal. (As Disney Adventures snarked: "You've seen the movie. Now eat the cereal.") Back in '91 you may have seen this irritatingly Ear Worm-y commercial for this example:
"Now, Prince of Thieves is an EXCITING CEREAL!!!"
- Not only that, but the marshmallows in that cereal are supposed to be shaped like arrows, but instead came out looking like... something else.
- "Jurassic Park Crunch" was basically Lucky Charms with dinosaur shapes.
- A variety of movies, TV shows, board games, video games, etc. have become the basis for themed casino slot machines since the Turn of the Millennium. Kids can't legally gamble, so most of the material being adapted was created for adults to begin with (though oftentimes it has a large Periphery Demographic of kids) or is old enough that kids who grew up with it and remain in its fanbase as adults will enjoy such a game in the present. But with the source material still being marketed to kids, this reasoning doesn't make it any less strange to see slot machines based on such properties as The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Star Wars and Marvel Comics-based slot machines were popular for a while in The New '10s; their sudden disappearance may have to do with Disney, which abstains from slot machines based on their in-house properties, now owning the rights to both franchises.
- The gourmet tea company The Republic of Tea produces tie-in teas — limited-edition blends with flavors "inspired by" a work, often the film of a book — via their catalog and website. So far they've tackled:
Anime & Manga
- In Japan, they apparently sold "LCL"-brand orange juice as a tie-in for the Neon Genesis Evangelion remake movies. For those who aren't Eva fans, LCL is a fluid humans can breathe in that fills the EVA cockpits that's actually the harvested blood of an Eldritch Abomination. And in The Movie Grand Finale, every human being on earth melts into LCL. It's almost like releasing Soylent Green brand tofu. Besides that issue, part of the Freudian overtones of the EVA designs also make it analogous to amniotic fluids.
- Dietary supplements endorsed by Cutey Honey, complete with animated fat Honey trying to lose weight.
- A Golgo 13 kewpie. A GODDAMN GOLGO 13 KEWPIE. A GOLGO, THE DEADLIEST ASSASSIN IN THE WORLD. KEWPIE. Not that the Devilman and Sirene kewpies are any less insane, but c'mon.
- For anyone who's seen Grave of the Fireflies, this lovely commemorative tin◊ has to seem at least a little disturbing. It Makes Sense in Context, sort of—the brand of candy is featured prominently in the film, as a favorite of the two main characters. However, considering what happens to them, and that the lack of candy is one of the first signs of their impending death by starvation... It's mildly unsettling.
- That's not even the half of it. That little girl on the packaging? Not only does she die, but her ashes are kept inside that tin of candy.
- This Puella Magi Madoka Magica wishboard that was put up at Otakon 2011, where convention-goers could write their wishes down on pieces of paper mounted on the board. Maybe not quite marketing per se, but a strange promotion in context nonetheless - whoever was behind displaying it either hasn't watched the show, else they'd know what making a contract with Kyubey entails, or it's some very Black Comedy.
- Then there's this poster to raise awareness of training guide dogs featuring Kyoko Sakura. Even putting aside that they used a character that has absolutely nothing to do with service dogs (Sayaka would've been a better choice), the poster is to be displayed in elementary and middle schools. While it's a for a good cause, they probably be shouldn't be tying it into a series that is not kid-friendly.
- There were also guide dog posters featuring Rei Ayanami from the Rebuild of Evangelion films.
- It's Japan. Convenience stores like 7-11 and Lawson's regularly run cross-promotions with such series as Detective Conan, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and, yes, Evangelion. "Family friendly" has a very different, but more entertaining, meaning there than it does in the West. In this case Madoka is a Seinen series, meaning it's aimed at adults even in Japan. And it's easy to see why - how many Magical Girl series can you think of that feature decapitations?
- Speaking of decapitations, there was a reversable plush of Charlotte that transforms from the cute form to the evil form that ate Mami, just like the Popples!
- They have Madoka Magica inner tubes. Including one shaped like Charlotte's mouth. Even if it didn't have the Charlotte one, it would still be strange because why would Madoka's target audience need an inner tube?
- MasterCard Japan released a Madoka credit card. Think about the Faust references in this show, and then the reputations that big banks and credit card corporations have developed, especially since the 2008 sub-prime meltdown. This is also weapons-grade irony, folks.
- There are also Soul Gem bath bombs. They come in a random assortment like capsule toys. When a Soul Gem breaks, a magical girl dies. Nice work killing dozens of girls for the sake of the pins inside!
- Also Madoka-themed lingerie. Considering how at least the original series is devoid of Fanservice, making underwear based on its characters is remarkably odd.
- You can buy a life-sized wearable replica of the Crimson Behilit from Berserk, just like Griffith's. Because who wouldn't want their very own Artifact of Doom that causes its bearer to inevitably make a Deal with the Devil and damn all of their friends and loved ones to a horrific death (or worse), followed by eternal torture in Hell, for personal gain?
- An Italian toy company made Barbie style dolls of Lina Inverse and Amelia Wil Tesla Saillune, complete with doll hair.
- Hello Kitty Vibrator. It's supposed to be just an electronic massager; Sanrio discontinued the item when they found out about people discovering its potential for perversion. That doesn't stop the weirdness, though. Other oddities include Hello Kitty lingerie and one of Japan's more famous Love Hotels, which has a room with a Hello Kitty BDSM theme, hardcore enough to give the plush Kitty dominatrix in it barbed wire garter belts.
- However, this is more a case of Values Dissonance and an effect similar to the Animation Age Ghetto, as the target market for Sanrio products is dramatically different between Japan and the rest of the world. In the US and Europe, Sanrio is marketed almost exclusively to children and early teens. By contrast, in Japan, the target market includes older teens and twentysomething adults (particularly the "office lady" demographic), and is a major expression of Japanese "Kawaii Culture".
- Sailor Moon Crystal-themed menstrual pads were released for the franchise's 20th anniversary. This at least makes some sense, since one of the stated goals of the revival is to target adult women who were fans of the show when they were children. According to J-List, this is because the phrase "Sailor Moon is coming to visit" is used as an Unusual Euphemism for getting your period in Japan.
- Similarly, there are officially licensed Rilakkuma condoms, complete with adorable packaging.
- There's this list of weird anime marketing campaigns, ranging from Lucky Star-scented motor oil to Hello Kitty tarot cards to "LCL-filled" strawberry jam cakes (the latter is as disturbing as the orange juice example above).
- Flowers of Evil sells a t-shirt that looks just like Saeki's gym uniform, which starts off the events of the series. Other than making a good cosplay prop...
- Hamtaro, a cute anime about the adventures of talking hamsters that is aimed at a younger demographic, once aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami in the United States, a block that was (and is, since its revival) dedicated to action-oriented anime (YuYu Hakusho, Outlaw Star, Tenchi Muyo!, Dragon Ball Z) and western animation (ReBoot, Batman: The Animated Series) that is aimed more at preteens and teenagers. Its strange inclusion can apparently be blamed on Executive Meddling, and this was lampshaded by TOM himself during bumpers. It later moved off of Toonami and became a part of Cartoon Network's regular programming schedule, and enjoyed a sizeable Periphery Demographic from regular Toonami watchers of the day, but what the top brass at CN were hoping to achieve with its inclusion on Toonami is still unknown.
- An Incredible Hulk children's book series has Hulk going around making friends and helping people. He's never angry and always huge and green. A sweet, silent guy.
- See above regarding the "Hulky Pokey" doll and other Marvel madness.
- In the 90's, there were plans for Fox Kids to do a Saturday Morning Cartoon adaptation of Rob Liefeld's Youngblood. The franchise's entire claim to fame is that it's part of the trend of Darker and Edgier, Hotter and Sexier, Bloodier and Gorier comics starring teams of violent Nineties Anti Heroes, which makes you wonder why someone would look at that and think "This would be GREAT as a kid's show!"
- Same goes for the short-lived Wild CATS cartoon.
- One week, Bitch Planet and Sex Criminals (written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, respectively) launched new issues simultaneously, so a Chicago comic-book chain, noticing that DeConnick and Fraction were married, thought it would be "cute" to announce the two issues in their newsletter by listing the writers as "Mrs. Matt Fraction" and "Mr. Kelly Sue DeConnick". Given that Bitch Planet is about a future where women are increasingly stripped of their agency, the newsletter's implication that DeConnick was the property of her husband did not go over well with fans...
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Publishing) has to be the most infamous example of this. The original comics had a lot of violence, swearing, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and the Shredder dying in the first issue. It had since become a Cash Cow Franchise spawning many cartoons and toys.
- Usagi Yojimbo gets this to a lesser extent. The comic contains a lot of on-page dismemberment, alcohol consumption, a recurring antagonist who believes he was sent by god to kill sinners, and a sub-plot of Usagi siring an illegitimate child with an already-married woman. The comic also regularly crossed over with the Ninja Turtles, and as such, would also make cameo appearances in the animated incarnations as well.
Films — Animation
- The Character Greetings at Disney Theme Parks have had some pretty strange stars over the years. Meeting regular villains is justifiable, since Evil Is Cool, but they've had greetings for villains like Frollo and Toy Story 3's Lotso. The fact that people can meet-and-greet some of the most evil Disney characters is mind-boggling to say the least.
- On the subject of Lotso, Disney went all the way and generated deliberate Misaimed Marketing for the character before the release of Toy Story 3 so that The Reveal of his utterly depraved nature in the movie would be made even more shocking (of course, no one would know that it is Misaimed Marketing before then). After the release of the movie, the usage of this trope with him firmly becomes straight though.
- For Christmas 1986, McDonald's released An American Tail Christmas stockings, which featured Fievel on them. This may sound all well and good until you realize that Fievel is a Jewish character. A lot of Jewish groups were not happy.
- There exist The Little Mermaid fish nuggets◊. Seeing fish products marketed with characters from a movie about sealife is weird.
- The Lorax:
- A commercial for Mazda cars was a cross-promotion with... The Lorax. Watch it here. This was a major target for Internet Backdraft not just because of the blatant greenwashing in play, but also for the tragic irony of a car company promoting something that's absolutely famous for its Green Aesop. The commercial probably would have been less ridiculous if the car it's advertising was either electric or a hybrid (which works in context of the story), but this is a wholly gas-run car (even when counting the fact that the advertised SUV is supposed to be more fuel-efficient than most other gas-powered cars— that SUVs are generally not noted for environmental friendliness is no help either.). Double ironic in that ad has "Lorax Approved" on it - just like one of the billboards the Once-Ler puts up in his Villain Song. "And theP.R. people are lying" indeed...
- Yeah, there's around 70 companies that had marketing tie-ins with a film that preaches against consumerism. The movie version of another Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, had the exact same problem!
- Similarly, Pocahontas was used extensively in Burger King promotions. Nothing out of the ordinary, but seeing wrappers, cups, and bags printed with this Green Aesop character littering streets was pretty head-tilting.
- The official website for Shrek 2 had a Flash game where the goal is to help Donkey become a noble steed, and you're helped by the "kindly" Fairy Godmother. Anyone who has seen the film will quickly realize that the Fairy Godmother is the villain of the piece, and that Shrek and Donkey's quest to change who they are is not portrayed as a good thing (at least not in Shrek's case).
- Chicken Run was marketed by Burger King with chicken nugget-esque products, despite the theme of the movie (and the Burger King marketing itself) being against eating chicken.
- There's a certain amount of irony in any WALL•E themed merchandise, given the movie's anti-commercialization themes.
- They made a real-life version of the "Little Me" doll from Coraline. Said doll is used as a spy for the Other Mother and even directs Coraline toward the Other World, where all of the trouble starts, and is a likely source of Paranoia Fuel.
- In 2017, Disney cleared rights for an authorized Cards Against Humanity game based on their properties. Seriously.
- The Emoji Movie:
- In the weeks leading up to The Emoji Movie's release, Sony Pictures reached out to a youtuber called Jacksfilms and invited him to the movie's world premiere, arguing that he was the movie's biggest fan (as he had done several videos praising it), and since most popular youtubers have a demographic that consists mainly of twelve year olds, the executives probably wanted to use him and his videos to market the film. Except Jacksfilms "praise" of the movie was entirely ironic, and he and every subscriber of his (who are mostly adults) were making fun of the movie, something the executives at Sony Pitcures failed to realize. His reaction at getting invited was priceless.
- A promotional image for The Emoji Movie was posted on Twitter that parodied The Handmaid's Tale, a book and television series involving a woman enslaved by the government to produce children. Needless to say, it was quickly taken down after everyone pointed out that maybe this wasn't the best thing to make a joke out of.
- Many Frozen fans have noted that a lot of merchandise involving Anna and Elsa are romantic-seeming. A clip-art of Elsa and Anna staring at each other is used on much of the merchandise. Some are outright Valentine's (though, admittedly Valentine's Day is treated as a generic "Love Day" by many) or romance themed, such as cards or rings meant to be given to your significant other. Marketers seem to have missed that Elsa and Anna are sisters.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars themed Christmas snowglobes, including one with Darth Vader as Santa Claus.
- Star Wars bath detergent. The cork is a figure of Darth Vader, and the cream itself is in a mini-Death Star.
- Once again: Queen Amidala's Galactic Body Wash. (Wait, so we can take a bath with Natalie Portman?)
- Star Wars soda cans... in a collectible Queen Amidala can-carrying case.
- Yves Saint Laurent even did a line of Queen Amidala-inspired makeup. The "Amidala Red" lipstick was actually pretty successful.
- With the release of The Force Awakens, Star Wars Covergirl makeup.
- Speaking of Episode VII, this birthday card featuring Kylo Ren (link contains spoilers).
- There are a toyline, comic book and animated series based around the Police Academy franchise of films. Granted, the films cleaned up their act over time — the first is rated R, the second PG-13, and from Back in Training on PG — but it's still strange given their raunchy origins.
- Many people have gotten whiplash while walking past a bag of Disney's Old Yeller brand dog food. The one thing most people know about that story should be reason enough not to use it to sell pet care products!
- There was a toyline for Hellboy II: The Golden Army. It never had the word "hell" anywhere on its packaging (the franchise was labeled "HB II", and the character was "Big Red"). If you can't say the guy's name in front of kids, you shouldn't be marketing to them.
- Bartleby was marketed as a zany comedy. It resembles one at the beginning, but it soon becomes apparent just how messed up the title character really is, and things take a downwards turn from there.
- Fight Club deals with modern society's repression of the masculine instinct, with pain, adrenaline, and physical reality replaced by vapid consumerism and technology, with Tyler Durden's whole philosophy revolving around rejecting the artificial, emasculating pleasures of modern living and embracing the harsh but fulfilling existence of our ancestors. In light of all that, one can imagine how weird it is that there's a video game based on the film, with Fred Durst as a Guest Fighter! When queried about this, author Chuck Palahniuk said, "They can do whatever they want with my book as long as the fucking check clears." He and David Fincher have talked about turning the movie into a musical, and were only about 50% joking when they did.
- There was a Lord of the Rings HO train sold (picture◊), which is only odd if you think about how the side with technology is the bad guys, and how long the heroes' journey on foot is.
- The adverts for About Time made it look like a generic Rom Com, but it's every bit as much about familial love than romantic. The Tag Line is cleverly misleading about this: "A Funny Film About Love with a little bit of time travel".
- To promote the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, coming out in November 2013, Covergirl released a Capitol-inspired line of makeup. For those not in the know, the Capitol fashions are repeatedly described as incredibly gaudy, if not nightmarish. And nothing says "shooting yourself in the foot" like tying your brand to a city full of corrupt hedonists who force children to murder each other for entertainment!
- A lot of the advertisements also focus heavily on the love triangle, downplaying the whole "people forced to fight to the death" and "rebellion of the repressed people" angle... just like the in-universe advertising.
- Many eyebrows were also raised about the tie-in with Subway sandwiches — in addition to talking about how how fun it would be to participate in the Games, one cannot shake the whole 'starvation' angle from the story.
- The original US dub of Godzilla Raids Again made a truly boneheaded marketing move—in a misguided effort to pass off the film as a standalone flick (due to upper management theorizing that a standalone film would be more successful than a sequel) they changed the film's name to "Gigantis The Fire Monster", and, in a truly inexcusable move to supplant them blatantly passing Godzilla off as a "new" monster, altered Godzilla's iconic roar (by replacing it with Anguiris' own roar from the same film).
- The US dub of Mothra vs. Godzilla renames the film as "Godzilla Vs. The Thing", and promotional artwork tried to portray the monster Godzilla duels as a tentacled horror so terrifying that the poster art had to be censored, and the only way to see how horrifying it is was to see the movie. Never mind that Mothra is not only the protagonist of the film, but is also a good natured monster who isn't remotely scary! (Maybe if you're an intense entomophobe, but even then, her friendliness tends to defuse that.)
- For The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water, the CGI superhero scenes are everywhere in marketing, while in fact they take up no more than 20 minutes of screen time. The CGI scenes in general get the most attention in terms of marketing, when most of the film is traditionally animated. This may be due to concerns that traditionally animated features won't bring audiences in anymore, which is admittedly a legitimate concern. Averted in the Japanese trailer, where the traditionally drawn scenes are more advertised.
- Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak is, as the director has said in multiple interviews, a Gothic Romance with ghosts in it. The film's marketing team at Universal, on the other hand, marketed the film as a more traditional haunted-house horror film. This led to a critical response that is, in a word, all over the place and weak box offices returns once the audience realized they got the movie they didn't expect.
- Night Watch is often marketed as "J. K. Rowling, Russian style". This is a book series that includes at least one very descriptive sex scene, an incredible amount of alcohol consumption, quite a bit of swearing and craploads of violence, as well as numerous very intricate and intelligent Plans. In short, it is not a kids' book. But then again, it depends on what they mean by "Russian style".
- Plush dolls of Cthulhu are an interesting example; both the makers and buyers play it for deliberate post-modernish irony. H.P. Lovecraft is rolling in his grave nonetheless.
- Harry Potter and the vibrating Nimbus 2000 Broomstick made by Mattel. Shortly after it was released during the 2001 holiday season, girls apparently began to discover that toy had other functions, as evidenced by some of the reviews by parents on Amazon talking about how even their older daughters loved playing with that toy. Mattel caught on to this after a while and permanently discontinued the item.
- Twilight. If something exists, you can probably find a Twilight version of it. Clothing? Posters? Bags? Candy? Bed sets? Band-aids? Jewelry boxes? Valentine cards? Barbie dolls? Board games? Temporary tattoos? You can find Twilight versions of all those things and more. Even vibrators. (Yes, they're sparkly.)
- Burger King had a tie-in "pull off the Twilight sticker on the package to win" campaign, and aired commercials where overzealous fans harassed customers to pick "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" by crowding around them and trying to explain why the characters were so great (to blank stares and incredulous reactions from the diners). It therefore ensured that anyone outside of the target demographic would stay far, far away from the restaurant until the promotion ended.
- A tie-in commercial for Volvo has the car company trying to market their vehicles to preteen girls by equating the danger one can face (shown via Bella unsuccessfully trying to ride a motorcycle) with the safety and security of a luxury car. Don't forget your financing options and down payments, girls.
- The jewelry-chain Rogers and Holland sold a Twilight-themed engagement ring as a tie-in with Breaking Dawn, Part 1.
- Even more despair-inducing than the engagement ring is one of those "insert-your-child's-name-here" books. This deliberate Twilight knockoff was marketed as a good birthday gift for one's preteen/teenage daughter.
- The Casual Vacancy is the first book J. K. Rowling wrote after Harry Potter, which is naturally how it was advertised. It's a straight, rather dry political novel. The book is also rather unfit of HP's younger fans, due to having quite a bit of sexual content. It's no surprise that the initial response from the reading community was not like or dislike, but confusion. (It's also little surprise that Rowling's next books were written under a pseudonym.)
- The Russian novel Mumu was written and sold as a scathing depiction of the inequities of life under the aristocracy. Russians decided it made a better childrens' book, leading to Americans being shocked when the animated feature clearly being sold for children ends in the puppy being drowned.
- Penguin Books added Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to their Modern Classics line of paperbacks in 2014, coinciding with its 50th anniversary. Thing is, this particular line is targeted at adults rather than kids. The outside-the-box thinking behind the unique cover of this edition — a photo of a girl made up to look like an Uncanny Valley resident — got Penguin in some hot water, with accusations of Contemptible Cover and this trope; critics argued that a children's novel that isn't regarded as having the crossover appeal that something like Harry Potter has didn't belong in this line in the first place.
- Would anyone like some Fear Factor ice cream? How about Fear Factor gummy spiders?
- The candy for Fear Factor was completely insane. They had stuff like mango flavored gummy candy shaped like sheep eyeballs and cola-flavored gummy cockroaches coated with icing so they crunch when you eat them.
- Among HBO's line of season one Game of Thrones merch, an odd choice of T-Shirt was unveiled just for the ladies; a House Frey shirt. Lord Frey is both untrustworthy and a Dirty Old Man with a teenage bride. Hardly the faction a lot of fans, new or old, would really want to get behind.
- There is also a Hand of the King pin, which becomes unfortunate with what tends to happen to people who wear it in the show, considering the show opens with the death of one of them and bad things continue to happen to subsequent wearers.
- Star Trek: Romulan Ale-flavored energy drinks are available. For those unfamiliar with Star Trek, Romulan Ale is an illegal beverage with effects somewhere between Fantastic Drug and Gargle Blaster. As such, it is generally only served for special occasions (notable examples being Kirk's birthday in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the dinner with the Klingon diplomats in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, with Bones mentioning in the latter case that he needs to put on a pot of black coffee after consuming it). The idea of putting it in the same line as Red Bull would be akin to making District 9 cat food.
- For the remastered edition of "The Best of Both Worlds", there is a Facebook app that lets you make a profile picture of yourself as one of the Borg. There is something both cool and terrifying of the fact that you can willingly make yourself look like a person from a race of half-man, half-machine people that assimilate others towards their cause, bring entire races and ships to their knees, and operate on a collective consciousness.
- Doctor Who's legendary "Dalekmania" in the '60s, which spawned a craze for all things Dalek —- in addition to the usual toys and Official Cosplay Gear, there were such wonders as "Dalek Death Ray Ice Lollies", fashion shoots for Vogue in which groovy '60s babes fondled Dalek eyestalks, Dalek novelty pop songs about partying with sexy Daleks and Dalek cuddly toys, all focusing on a race of Scary Dogmatic Aliens based on particularly hysterical Nazis. This also spawned a whole line of toy guns said to be "Dr. Who's Anti-Dalek" weapons (when the Doctor almost never uses guns). This whole trope was eventually deconstructed in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio story "Jubilee", which postulates the kind of Britain which would market Dalek iconography to children as necessarily being a society with a Foreign Culture Fetish for Dalek culture, becoming a Nazi-like empire fixated on conquering others and erasing everything different.
- In 1999, Compaq Computers sponsored musician Sting's (then-current) album Brand New Day, as part of a marketing tie-in to promote their new line of products and services. The only problem is that point of Brand New Day is Sting lambasting the use of consumer products and ridiculing anyone who believes someone is a god because they brought out a "newer and better" version of something. Hell, it even says this in the music video. Somehow, no one at Compaq (not even their vice-president of marketing, who stated that the song "fit in with our core values") realized that having a song telling the listener not to embrace pointless upgrades and newer versions might not be a good fit for their brand-new line of computer products.
- In 1992 there was a pair of branded perfumes for women and men, respectively: Mystique de Michael Jackson and Legende de Michael Jackson. Given Jackson's appearance and mannerisms by '92, Jay Leno joked on The Tonight Show, "But which one does he wear?"
- In the late '00s, Stern started trying to sell pinball to people in China. However, they seemingly didn't do any research into what appeals to people in China and attempted to sell Big Buck Hunter Pro and NBA, both of which barely sold any units because they were American franchises with pretty little presence in China. In addition, pinball is unfamiliar to most people in China, which Stern didn't take into account: Due to a total lack of introduction to what pinball is and how to play then, people largely had no clue what to do when stepping up to the machine. Lastly, Stern simply exported these machines to China completely unchanged and untranslated, meaning the machines were still completely in English without a lick of Chinese anywhere on them and required electrical transformers to even be plugged in.note
- Then, it happened again to Stern, only domestically, with The Rolling Stones. The Stern people knew that the biggest potential audience would be fans of the band, but the machine itself contains a plastic cutout of Mick Jagger that moves left and right, getting in the way, and the game encourages the player to repeatedly hit him as hard as possible with the ball as often as possible. Someone on the design team failed to realize beating up Mick isn't exactly what most Rolling Stones fans dream of doing, and "Mick on a Stick" became the poster child for the Scrappy Mechanic in pinball from there on out.
- Sesame Street:
- Behold, the Big Bird Eggbeater. Big Bird is a bird, birds hatch from eggs, and an eggbeater mashes up eggs so they can be used to make food like cake. Big Bird Would Hurt a Child, basically.
- A children's party venue meant for kids ages 2-7 held an event about Elmo meeting Spider-Man. The characters are aimed at two different age groups, so seeing them together was very strange.
- Live theater souvenir merchandise usually consists of souvenir programs, mugs, T-shirts, etc. Cirque du Soleil goes further (especially online) with jewelry, accessories, stationery, and fine art pieces, few of which relate to one show in particular, but rather the company in general. It's not unlike Disney's adult-targeted merchandise, but it does result in oddities such as Cirque-decorated salt and pepper shakers and lip balm in decorated tins.
- The Disney on Ice shows often devote segments to the company's latest animated films and/or characters. A rare case of a live-action film getting represented came in the early Eighties, when one edition featured a TRON-inspired segment...
- Dear God, Barbie (and its imitations!) Some of the following are "black label" Barbies, which are marketed to collectors both of dolls and merchandise. But that doesn't stop the "3+" label on some of them (especially the Elektra one) from being funny...:
- The Lord of the Rings Bar◊bi◊es.◊
- Star Trek Bar◊bies.◊
- The X-Files Barbies.◊
- King Kong (1933) Barbies.◊
- Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds Barbies.◊
- Shrek Barbies◊.
- Marvel Comics' Invisible Woman◊, Elektra◊ and Mary Jane Watson-Parker◊ Barbies.
- Rosie O'Donnell◊ Barbies.
- Michael Jackson Bar◊bies.◊
- Earring Magic Ken.
- Barbie promoting herself through the Girl Scouts. This resulted in a healthy dose of Internet Backdraft due to the tragic hypocrisy of the Girl Scouts — the bastion of positive role models for girls and a non-profit organization — suddenly shilling a heavily commercialized toy line that's absolutely famous for its sexualized image. (That this product placement came mere weeks after the publication of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue featuring Barbie really didn't help matters.)
- The entire marketing campaign for Dead Space 2 is seemingly aimed at pre-teen boys: EA decided that the best way to market the sequel to their acclaimed, M-rated horror game was to let everybody know how much their mom wouldn't like them playing it. Then again, at least half the people playing M-rated shooters are pre-teen boys (many of whom refuse to play anything else), so maybe EA knows its audience too well.
- However, one of the people working on the game showed the same footage to his mother. Her reaction disturbed him.
- This isn't a one-off. DICE struggled to get Battlefield 1 approved because EA executives weren't convinced that kids would be familiar with World War I. Never mind how patronising this attitude is to children - like Dead Space, the Battlefield franchise is consistently rated M, so it makes no sense to market to children, as Jim Sterling pointed out in a video entitled Game Industry Executives Are Fucking Idiots.
- There was a strange attempt in the mid-90s to make the Mortal Kombat franchise more kid-friendly (without changing the content of the games). This included the movies, the cartoon show, and even a series of live performances, all which focus more on the martial arts aspect rather than the killing aspect. It didn't work out so well, and after the second movie bombed they went back to promoting the Rated M for Manly. Quite ironic in retrospect, what with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe... which backfired enough for the series to revert to normal come the next game.
- Mortal Kombat has a Saturday Morning Cartoon, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. Let us repeat that: The game that is almost single-handedly responsible for rating systems and the need to keep adult games away from kids got a Saturday morning cartoon. Granted, the content is heavily Bowdlerized, but still.
- The Street Fighter cartoon is a somewhat lighter version of the trope (coincidentally, it often played in a block with the above-mentioned Defenders of the Realm). True, the animated styling and lack of horrible mutilations make the games less family-unfriendly, but there's no "world tournament" any more and they're rather inconsistent about any backstory involving murder, revenge, terrorism, good guys fighting good guys over clashing ideals or the like, typically diluting it down to "The good guys all work for one group, the bad guys all work for Bison." So basically, G.I. Joe only with the Street Fighter characters, and a bit less of a stranglehold on Never Say "Die"... And they still had trouble making THAT concept work. At least, not until the second season, but by then it was too late.
- Game Boy shower gel, in a black, brick-like container modeled after the original Game Boy. The A and B buttons work for a mini-pinball game in the 'screen'.
- Super Mario Bros. shampoo. As David Letterman put it, "This will go great with my Ms. Pac-Man cologne!"
- You're a company that sells string cheese. One day, you decide to offer free PC CD games in with your cheese. Sound plan. What do you decide to offer? A platform game with a cute mouse? OK then. Beyond Good & Evil, a cult classic set in a futuristic semi-dystopia where a lone rogue reporter is the only hope of saving an entire planet from an evil empire by exposing their inhumane acts in order to cause the populace to revolt? Yeah, the game sold that poorly.
- This was likely the same reason why Mirror's Edge download codes were once offered with Braun electric razors.
- For a happy, E-rated game, some of the pay downloadable costume packs for LittleBigPlanet are rather un-kid-friendly. Examples include 2000 AD, Watchmen, Metal Gear, and Resistance: Fall of Man. Could just be trying to hit the Periphery Demographic, but still...
- The marketing on this this one is actually pretty specifically aimed. Kids aren't likely to buy DLC, and slightly older kids who might buy some of it probably wouldn't spend their money on something extra if they don't recognize it. The game's Periphery Demographic is the DLC's intended demographic.
- The Pokémon bop bag. Perfect for those who hate Pokemon.
- It gets even stranger, as explained in this article. The DS and umbrella make sense, with the popularity of the games and anime, but the toilet paper roll? The surgical mask? The maxi pads and condoms?
- Surgical masks, however, are worn in Japan by almost everyone fairly often. It's not too rare to go to school and see at least half your class with a mask. The pads, well, there has been at least one Tumblr post hoping for something like that. "I can get through this day! I have dinosaurs in my pants!" (Or, in this case, Pokemon). Remember that most girls are still kids (12-ish is fairly common) when they get their first period.
- Pokémon toilet paper. Mud Sport indeed...
- It gets even stranger, as explained in this article. The DS and umbrella make sense, with the popularity of the games and anime, but the toilet paper roll? The surgical mask? The maxi pads and condoms?
- Angry Birds
- Angry Birds Space has board books for babies. Mind you, babies aren't the target audience for Angry Birds anyway, and who buys these books for a baby?
- They also have Angry Birds baby costumes. It is a casual game, so it's not entirely implausible...
- There are egg-shaped confectioneries branded after Angry Birds. Now you too can draw ire of homicidal, vandalising avians out for the blood of anyone who touches their eggs!
- At one point, the US Air Force sponsored a free, downloadable version of Area 51.
- NieR's marketing made the game look like a cheap western action game meant to appeal to fans of franchises like God of War. In reality, it is a melancholic action-JRPG meant for an older audience, made by the same people responsible for Drakengard. Taro Yoko himself, the game's director, even admits that the people playing his games would most likely be fans of games like Tales and Danganronpa. This attempt to capture a broader western audience instead of appealing to the JRPG fanbase may have been a contributing factor to the game's poor sales.
- Publisher Deep Silver's "Masterclass" trailer for Mighty No. 9, a Spiritual Successor to Mega Man, has a Totally Radical 90s-flavored narrator who, near the end, makes a Take That! joke towards anime fans, who make up much of the series' audience. This is one of many reasons the trailer bombed among gamers and journalists alike.
- Injustice 2 had a limited tie-in released around the same time as Wonder Woman (2017) that allowed players to use Gal Gadot likeness as a skin. Many players found it jarring considering that Wonder Woman in that game is a brutal and ruthless Dark Action Girl and nothing like the All-Loving Heroine from the movie, as well as one of the most disliked portrayals of the character since Flashpoint.
- Popeye The Sailor has occasionally run into marketing oddities; one such thing that has gained infamy is these two Quaker Oats ads starring him. Why? Because the premise involves Popeye casually ditching his spinach, in favor of eating a batch of Quaker Oatmeal to get a power boost and mop the floor with Bluto. It doesn't help that because Popeye uses brute force to deal with Bluto, it drew objections from the pacifist Quakers, which caused the ad to be pulled.
- The mid to late '30's Popeye radio show actually predates the Quaker Oats fiasco, minus the bad PR but still glossing over Popeye's most well known trademark; specifically, the show regularly shills Wheatena cereal over Popeye's spinach, even incorporating the cereal into Popeye's theme song for the show.
- A tinfoil poster exists of Popeye with the words "No Smoking" on it; while it has noble intentions, it blatantly overlooks that one of Popeye's character trademarks is that he smokes a corn-cob pipe (which is predictably absent from the poster).
- While Popeye promoting foods like canned spinach is a no-brainer, one must note the oddity of combining Popeye's love of spinach with a harmless, but still bizarre, curiosity; Popeye brand spinach gum—shredded bubble gum that looks like spinach.
- This Minute Maid ad has also gained infamy among fans, largely for the unintentional humor of it portraying Popeye and Bluto as downright affectionate towards each other.
- This bizarre comic◊ of Popeye promoting jobs in communication fields, of all things; the subject matter scarcely relates to Popeye in the first place, and it would probably fly over the heads or interest of kids—although it's probably just a standard educational comic with Popeye tossed in to catch their attention.
- An Invader Zim edutainment game... sorta. Jhonen Vasquez probably choked on his tacos when he heard about it.
- More a case of misconceived marketing, the Schnookums and Meat canned pasta had this remarkable disclaimer on the label: "Meat is a character developed by Buena Vista Television. THERE IS NO MEAT IN THIS PRODUCT." This leads to some interesting Fridge Logic: Shouldn't they have been more concerned with assuring the customer that the product doesn't contain any "Schnookums"?
- The use of Carnage in Ultimate Spider-Man. The series' producer stated Carnage is included because he and Venom are popular with kids, which is true, but horrifying when you remember what his comic counterpart does. The animated series and Ultimate universes in general tend to tone down the freakiness of the Symbiotes.
- A book of American Dad! Mad Libs. Mind you, the audience for Mad Libs is MUCH younger than the audience for American Dad.
- They do make adult Mad Libs...
- Pingu's English. Because clearly the best mascot for a language school is a character known for speaking in complete gibberish.
- Some merchandise for The Ren & Stimpy Show featured Ren happily and willingly doing the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance with Stimpy. In the episode where this comes from, "Stimpy's Invention", Ren is forced to do the dance because of Stimpy's Happy Helmet and is the last straw that drives Ren to remove said helmet.
- The classic Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas, in its original broadcast, included copious Product Placement for Coca-Cola. As anyone who's ever seen the special (and that's a lot of people) would know, A Charlie Brown Christmas is very much anti-commercialization.
- And these days the special itself gets merchandise every holiday season as part of the larger merchandising of the characters — including the official Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!
- Back in the late 1990s-early 2000s, Disney sold a lighter with the main six from Recess on it. Granted, the show has a HUGE Periphery Demographic, but it's still a piece of merchandise you wouldn't buy for the target audience.
- Here's a weird product from Thomas the Tank Engine: A Thomas The Tank Engine toddler urinal.◊ Justified, since most kids who watch Thomas are toddlers, but still, how many parents use toddler urinals anyways?
- My Little Pony:
- The Merch includes a T-shirt that features Generation 1 ponies but mentions Generation 4's Periphery Demographic, leaving both generations' fans confused.
- In general, when it comes to the merch it can be a bit confusing which things are supposed to be targeted the primary demographic (preteen girls) and the periphery demographic (mostly male adults). This occasionally results in oddities like MLP-themed boxer shorts ending up on shelves next to toys intended for nine-year-old girls. A general rule of thumb is that the kid-aimed products have mostly pink and magenta decorations on the box, and the adult-aimed products instead have mostly magenta and black.
- There are a lot of dress-up toy sets involving Rainbow Dash, who in the show is a massive tomboy who hates that kind of thing. They also did a set based around fashion at one point, but for some reason chose Pinkie Pie as its mascot rather than Rarity.
- My Little Pony-branded medwurst◊. What business does an implicitly vegetarian cartoon horse have advertising meat?
- Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash once appeared at a meet-and-greet in Toronto for infants at "The Babytime Show".
- In 2015, the Nickelodeon offshoot The Splat tried to hop on to a popular meme with an ad that boasted that "Saturdays are all about Splat and Chill", inspired by the "Netflix and Chill" meme. Apparently, nobody in their marketing department bothered to look up what the word "Chill" in that context actually meant. As one Tumblr user put it, "No, Nickelodeon, I'm not going to fuck while watching Rugrats."
- Similar to the SpongeBob mall tour example above, Cartoon Network has used the cast of Teen Titans Go! for an anti-bullying campaign (which includes several public service announcements airing on CN and posters displayed in schools), despite the main characters themselves often acting like bullies.
- One curious piece of early Simpsons merchandise were books for preschool age children featuring Maggie Simpson. To be fair, the books are simply educational titles to teach toddlers about animals, shapes, and such, but it still seems odd to see a franchise like The Simpsons marketed to such a young audience.
- Another odd Fox marketing ploy is cross-promoting King of the Hill early in its run on Fox Kids, as "Fox Kids Heads for the Hills" - featuring such bizarre things as Hank convincing the Silver Surfer to switch to a propane-powered surfboard. This was one of the last times Fox primetime and Fox Kids really interacted with each othernote , and as a result, cross-promotion became more and more untenable.
- When the Care Bears franchise was revived during the early 2000s, Grumpy Bear was given his own line of merchandise, segregating him from the main Care Bears line in the process, in an attempt to capitalize on his popularity. The problem is that they believed that Grumpy's popularity was limited to the Periphery Demographic of goths. By the time Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot premiered, the Grumpy line was retired, and Grumpy was brought back to the mainline Care Bears merchandise.
- The 90s Iron Man cartoon was released on DVD to cash in on Iron Man 2 and even mentioned Whiplash on the back—despite Mark Scarlotti being a very different character from Ivan Vanko, including being one of the Mandarin's lackeys on the show.
- Disney actually licensed official Phineas and Ferb school supplies like backpacks and notebooks at the show's peak in popularity. It seems fine at first, but then you remember that the show takes place during Summer vacation when there's no school going on till September.
- The now-infamous attempt to widen Las Vegas' appeal beyond gamblers in the early 1990s was all about this. After the tropical-themed Mirage casino-hotel revived the conceit of a Vegas trip as a classy proposition, there was a push by the convention authority to appeal to the family market — even though those under 21 can't gamble and can't hang around with their elders if they're gambling. So themed hotels like the Excalibur (King Arthur), Luxor (ancient Egypt), MGM Grand (The Wizard of Oz), and Treasure Island (pirates) arrived with colorful architecture and family-oriented attractions in addition to the usual casinos, restaurants, and stage shows. But most of those attractions (including the biggest, the MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park) were duds, and adults-only groups and casino-hotel management didn't enjoy dealing with kids. Parents left kids to fend for themselves, causing further problems. Once it was clear Vegas-for-families wasn't workable, most of the hotels moved on, remodeling and becoming more "adult" (for instance, the live pirate battle outside Treasure Island became a battle between skanky "sirens" and buff buccaneers instead of an old-fashioned pirates-vs.-Navy bout — a shame, because general consensus is that the pirates vs. Navy show was much better).
- Burger King cologne, the "body spray of seduction, with a hint of flame-grilled meat."
- At the Museum of Science and Industry's U-505 exhibit, you can buy a full range of "Rosie the Riveter" projects — oven mitts, spatulas, and dish-towels. Seems a little counter-productive. Granted, Rosie is popular, and even women who don't spend all their time in the kitchen still have one. It's weapons-grade irony, but understandable.
- Older Than Radio, if you consider military-inspired toys (soldiers, tanks, and so forth). Granted, warfare wasn't quite as grisly as it is today until around the early twentieth century, but going to war in any era is certainly no picnic.
- For several years, Harlequin published a successful line of Extruded Book Product romance novels set in the oh-so-romantic world of... NASCAR.
- An insurance company named Independent Health advertises a policy known as the "RedShirt™ Treatment".
- A pretty nasty example: A golf course had a coupon for a golf discount on 9/11 note The fact that the name of the golf course is "Tumbledown Trails" makes it even worse.
Parodies of This Phenomenon
Anime & Manga
- Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has in-universe examples, with everything from dolls to panties featuring the titular girls' likenesses. Panty Really Gets Around on the show and jumps at the chance to get her name on a product, and Stocking has a Sugar and Ice Personality and questions all the baubles that get made of her. Knowing Gainax's casual attitude towards licensing, it might be a big in-joke.
- One of the Ambush Bug mini-series has a brief appearance from a "Stephanie Brown Lil' Dickens Power Tool Playkit," meant as a nod to the heroine's brutal torture and death at the hands of Black Mask. The box even has an image of Stephanie recoiling in terror.
- Apparently in the DC Universe, The Joker is a popular costume choice for young trick-or-treaters, despite the fact that in-universe, he's a known mass murderer. Commissioner Gordon is understandably upset when he sees his son dressed up in one of the aforementioned costumes.
- As of DC Rebirth, there's a chain of Batman-themed fast food restaurants, with items named after Batman's various allies and rogues. Bruce Wayne is not pleased to find out about it:
Cashier: Do you want to Jokerize those fries?
Duke Thomas: Be nice, Bruce.
Bruce Wayne: "Jokerize"?
Cashier: It's like, special seasoning they put on it. But it's, like, white and red and, y' know... green.
Bruce Wayne: The Joker is a homicidal maniac. An agent of pure chaos. He wants to kill us all just so he can laugh over our graves.
Cashier: So, uh, you DON'T want us to Jokerize your fries?
- Ozymandias has an action figure line planned using the main characters, all of whom are deconstructed superheroes, at best antiheroes and at worst mass-murdering psychopaths. However, official ones were released as a movie tie in — it's not clear whether this is tongue-in-cheek or whether they're just milking all they can out of it.
- Also, this fan video claiming to be an unaired '80s ad for an Ozymandias action figure.
- Some of the other real life tie-in movie products include Nite Owl-themed coffee, lunchboxes and blue condoms with the tagline: "We're society's only protection!". No joke.
- The Simpsons has done this several times, but the best is Milhouse asking Alan Moore to autograph his Watchmen Babies in: V for Vacation DVD.
- Watchmen seems like a popular target for these parodies, possibly because of Alan Moore's famous loathing of such cash-in products. To wit, Saturday Morning Watchmen.
- A 3-part Denser and Wackier story from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic features Raphael getting abducted by two aliens. After learning his status as a hero, the two excitedly name off all the potential TMNT merchandising they could profit off, such as T-shirts, video games... and condoms.
Films — Animation
- In Hercules, after the title character defeats the Hydra he becomes insanely popular, making a fortune licensing his image and namesake out to numerous products including sports drinks, vases, sandals and action figures.
Films — Live-Action
- Spaceballs milks this trope for every joke it can get, including Spaceballs the Bedsheets, Spaceballs the Toilet Paper, and, of course, Spaceballs da Flametrowah! ("The kids love that one...") The gag even extends to home video releases, with the VHS case being branded "Spaceballs the Home Video" and the DVD menu opening with, well, guess.
- Rocky III has Rocky do all sorts of endorsements and product placement while he is reigning heavyweight champ, from the logical (Wheaties, Rocky-brand boxing gloves) to the more absurd (Rocky-brand dinner plates). Paulie doesn't like it one bit and destroys a Rocky-themed pinball machine.
- The strange thing is, an actual Rocky pinball machine was made for the movie, making the message a little warped.
- The Mockumentary The Compleat Al has a scene where "Weird Al" Yankovic is presented with such ridiculous licensed merchandise as dress up kits and (to his horror) edible underwear.
- A deleted scene from Best in Show has Gerry Fleck, who has a birth defect of two left feet, endorsing a shoe line made entirely of left shoes. They end with an expert in the field who says "Take it from a professional: these shoes are really different."
- Another Christopher Guest film, Waiting for Guffman, has a scene where Corky St. Clair shows off his collection of odd movie merchandise, including a Remains of the Day lunchbox and My Dinner with Andre action figures.
- When asked by a reporter if there will be action figures based on The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone replied that there will be figures that don't move, just float face down in the water, and that kids will love it. Hot Toys are actually going to do action figures based on the film, but as with most Hot Toys collectibles, they will most likely be high-end, expensive products that kids won't find fun.
- The Relic ends with various attempts to exploit the stories of the Museum Beast with things like cartoons and action figures ending in failure. Considering that the Museum Beast was a monster which ate people's brains and (in the novel) brutally killed children, this is not surprising.
- An episode of The Golden Girls mentions Dorothy's previous less than amazing Christmases. She mentions one year, she received soap in the shape of the Seven Dwarfs. When Blanche asked her about it, Dorothy says, "What kid wants to play with soap? And after a couple of baths, they looked like Seven Suppositories."
- In another episode, Sophia mentions her son Phil would frequently send her a nativity scene every Christmas... made out of cheddar cheese. She then says that her Catholic guilt means she can't spread a Wise Man on a Ritz cracker.
- Saturday Night Live has an ad for Philadelphia action figures and a video game, made by a company that apparently just doesn't care because it warps the whole thing into a sci-fi/fantasy concept. There's also an ad for a fast food joint, KCF Shredders (they specialize in an "extreme" foodstuff consisting of nothing but lettuce and mayonnaise in a bag), that notes their kids' meals currently have How Stella Got Her Groove Back toys.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "There All the Honor Lies," Earthforce opens a gift shop in the station with Babylon 5 merchandise: clothing, model ships, space alien masks, human masks (for space aliens!), Londo Mollari dolls, John Sheridan "Bear-B-Lon 5" teddy bears; the works. Neither Ivanova, nor Sheridan, nor Londo like it at all. Mention of this episode, particularly the phrase "teddy bear," is sufficient to make any fan of the series fall apart in a paroxysm of laughter. "Cast... in a bad light," indeed.
- The Chaser's War on Everything did a stunt where they tried to sell Shrek-branded beer and sex toys to kids, just to see what people would be willing to buy for their children if it had the Shrek logo on it. They managed to sell Shrek-brand heroin (of course the heroin wasn't actually heroin, but no one needed to know that) — "You might want your mum to carry it for you."
- In the Jessie episode "Say Yes to the Messy Dress", Zuri cranks out a bunch of absolutely ridiculous Kitty Couture merchandise, including kitty litter, a board game, a burger griller, a backscratcher, and a trophy. Emma/Kitty Couture herself is not pleased.
- MADtv has a sketch about an incredibly violent Grand Theft Auto board game marketed to a nuclear family, and they all enjoy themselves playing murderous criminals shooting each other up in gang wars, snorting fake cocaine, and getting makeshift prison tattoos. They also have Grand Theft Auto as a Price Is Right-meets-Wheel Of Fortune type game show.
- MADtv also parodies this with movies such as Titanic and The Dark Knight having tie-in kids' meal toys.
- Full House had a scene at a supermarket that finds Jesse chiding Michelle over wanting a certain cereal just because it has a cartoon character on the box...and then getting excited over the prospect of Elvis Peanut Butter. He has trouble choosing between the smooth and "Hunka-Hunka Chunka" varieties.
- The musical version of Little Shop of Horrors has a lot of people trying to jump on the Audrey II bandwagon, including a seed manufacturer that wanted to sell seeds and/or clippings from Audrey.
- The old FPS game Blood has a secret level set in a small shopping mall. One of the stores has a nice display of Blood action figures, including little shotgun-wielding crazed cultists and scythe-wielding ghosts. Take in mind this game came out before the whole "Pandering to the Base by selling accurate-likeness toys/posters/Feelies in direct market shops" thing was all the rage in the marketing world.
- Ratchet: Deadlocked is a game about Ratchet being kidnapped and forced to compete in DreadZone, where heroes kill eachother in gladiatorial combat. In both cutscenes and Announcer Chatter we see a lot of advertisments for DreadZone merchendise targeted at kids, such as trading cards ("Collect them all, and exterminate your friends today!"). Notably, the Big Bad has a very hard time getting Ace Hardlight merch to sell, because kids hate him for being a complete Jerkass.
- Schlock Mercenary brings us the Plasma Cannon Safety Coloring Book.
- Law & Order: The Coloring Book.
- From the same guy: SVU-themed Valentine's Day cards.
- A bit of Memetic Mutation centres around an exaggeration of this trope in conjunction with Kenner/Hasbro's love of making figures of everyone and everything in the Star Wars universe, no matter how minor or squicky. There are pictures of a fan's custom figurine of the burned corpses of Owen and Beru - as in, a few little bits of disconnected black/red debris. Other such parody figurines exist, including more complete skeletons and their burned-out home.
- CollegeHumor's Original video "The Hunger Games" parodies this by turning The Hunger Games into a board game targeted towards love-obsessed teenage girls, whereas the story itself is about a literal duel to the death set in a dystopian North America.
- SCP-261 vends some things that seem inappropriate during authorised experimentation sessions, from edible underwear to things that explode, kill several researchers and cause the place to smell like citrus for days. Some item's design and packaging can resemble this trope, even keeping in mind how bizarre the things it can vend may already be; things including a Sunday Profani-snack composed of a sachet of wine and communion wafers with daemonic symbols moulded in, whose packaging declares "Damnation Guaranteed!", cookies composed of seven concentric circles (Tastes like Hell!) and the packaging for "candy Bullets", which portrays smiling characters who are happy to be shot with a self-loading pistol.
- As an April Fools' Day joke, IGN produced a trailer for a Saturday Morning Cartoon based on, of all things, Mass Effect.
- A bit of City of Heroes player lore featured a hero named Ascendant, whose player would stand around having phone conversations with his agent. One cited on Paragon Wiki is about the horrible tie-in items he had launched.
"You're selling cereal that can kill me to my archenemies, you've made my action figure not only ludicrous but potentially lethal to kids, and you're committing felonies by broadcasting illegal transmissions of Nightline from off shore. Oh, and I almost forgot, you're selling an action playset which proudly proclaims on the box that 'Ascendant stores all of his most precious items inside his incredible A-Hole.'"
- The Simpsons:
- There's an amazing array of Krusty-Brand products ranging from home pregnancy tests ("May cause birth defects") to contracts ("Hey hey! They're binding!") to crowd-control barriers ("Krusty sez get back!") to facial hair removers (which are "probably" supposed to make your upper lip bleed, according to Johnny Unitas). In "The Last Temptation of Krust", Krusty realizes he's lost touch with what audiences find funny and ultimately becomes a stand-up comedian who launches several tirades against his former sponsors. And then he's back to endorsing a two-lane gas-guzzling SUV, having realized that selling out, not comedy, is his true calling in life.
- One episode features a My Dinner with Andre arcade game. Naturally it's played by Martin.
- In "Marge Simpson in: Screaming Yellow Honkers", Bart is surprised that Aerosmith has a cereal called "Sweet Emotions".
- Both the Tapped Out mobile game and a Treehouse of Horror special have Bart dressed in a child-sized costume based on Alex DeLarge, of A Clockwork Orange...which is most definitely not a kid-friendly movie (or book, for that matter).
- In The Legend of Korra episode "The Spirit of Competition", the pro-bending announcer decides that the sight of Bolin throwing up a large quantity of noodles creates the perfect opportunity to advertise Flameo Noodles.
- On Dexter's Laboratory, a line of trendy jeans (a la Calvin Klein) bear the brand of the Puppet Pals.