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Misaimed Marketing

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They make great bedtime stories!
"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 llots 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.

Compare Unisex Series, Gendered Merchandise. 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?. If the marketing does not gel well with the work's moral message, this can crash into a metatextual Broken Aesop. In many examples of Merchandising the Monster, this gets directly invoked. See also Never Trust a Trailer and Covers Always Lie. Sometimes runs headlong into My Little Panzer...

Is mostly the result of Animation Age Ghetto.

Works with their own pages:

"How Toyetic Can you Get?"

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Studio Gainax (and later Studio Khara during the Rebuild era) have a reputation for being absolute marketing whores who will sell any merchandise and sex up their characters as much as necessary. There's even a Rei Ayanami soap dish.
    • Moe Anthropomorphisized Angel dolls (including a genderbent Tabris in a short skirt). If that's not your cup of tea, there's always the Sanrio-esque line of Yurushito characters.
    • They still haven't made a Kaworu PEZ dispenser, which would be cool in a completely tasteless sort of way. They have, however, made a choker out of Rebuild Kaworu's bomb collar.
    • 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 moe faces, off-model bodies and hairstyles, tiny underwear, and lovingly sculpted camel toes. It’s also worth mentioning that they were on display at Epcot, in a major case of Cowboy BeBop at His Computer.
    • That's nothing compared to the officially licensed strip mahjong game, which even got two expansion packs.
    • Unit-01 got a bullet train designed after it, even featuring an area where riders can put themselves in the shoes of a pilot about to have an Eva battle. That's not the strange part; plenty of series get special collaborations with bullet trains for a quick redecorating. The strange part was its recursive collaboration— it got adapted into a Transforming Mecha for the Shinkalion series of kids toys, the official reason being that Unit-01 represented Father-son bonding with Shinji and Gendo the same way E5 Hayabusa did for Hayato and his father (albeit much more healthy) in the Shinkalion anime.
    • An adorable miniature keychain of the Asuka doll. Now you too can ignore your flesh-and-blood child for a stuffed toy. It even hangs like Asuka's mom!
    • There's a typing game based on the show for the Sega Dreamcast. As expected, the series' more adult elements are toned down to make it appropriate for kids learning to type.
  • 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 unawakened form 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 in this particular form.
  • If you want proof that Harmony Gold was willing to squeeze as much money from Robo Tech as possible, by any means possible, look no further than The Women of Robotech dolls. Rick really seems to get around...
  • 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 last words before turning into a witch.
    "I'm such an idiot."
  • Digimon:
  • With JoJo's Bizarre Adventure being as popular and long-running as it is, some bizarre merchandise was inevitable.
    • Bandai Premium made a replica of the soul doll Kakyoin was turned into by the Younger D'Arby in Stardust Crusaders. It's just as hideous as it is in the show, but its marketing includes photos of a young woman smiling at it. It's hard to tell whether they're trying to make it look cute or are aiming for Sex Sells, but neither of these things are really appropriate for such a creepy item that would really only appeal to hardcore fans.
    • A Young Joseph cosplay outfit for your Build-a-Bear or other anthropomorphic stuffed animal. Because kids love to dress their plushies up like a series full of graphic violence and Body Horror.
  • Back in the 90s before the advent of late night anime, every TV anime needed to have a toyline, no exceptions. This was also before the advent of more adult-oriented anime merch, especially those aimed at women, like rubber straps and accessories, so these toys had to be made for kids. That's easy enough if you have a Humongous Mecha or a Magical Girl Warrior series, since wands and robots are very easy to translate into toy form. But what if you need to sell say, a high school romance Shoujo for instance? There's not exactly much you can sell there. Well, what animation companies did back then was make up their own toys to force into the anime adaptation and have the characters play with them... even if it makes no sense for characters of that age, or the target audience, for that matter, to play with such toys. This lead to a rather infamous phenomenon where the anime adaptations of shoujo works starring and aimed at teenagers like Boys over Flowers or Marmalade Boy have the characters shill toys meant for five year olds that were never in the manga. Not only that, but these two shows aired in the same timeslots as Ojamajo Doremi and Pretty Cure and mainly had ads for toys aimed at preschoolers and 1st-3rd grade school kids air during their commercial breaks, sometimes from franchises like Anpanman and Connie-chan.
  • Naruto
    • Back in the 2000's, toys based on Naruto were released as McDonald's Happy Meal toys in Japan.
    • Multiple plush toys based on extremely deadly Naruto characters, including the entire Akatsuki, Orochimaru and Madara Uchiha, are sold in stores.
    • In 2023, Jada Toys released toys of Naruto and Kakashi that come with toy cars. Kishimoto specifically stated in a interview that he did not want cars or vehicles in the Naruto series.
    • A Itachi outfit for babies can be found on Amazon, because who wouldn't want to dress their baby up as a guy who killed his entire clan.
  • Chainsaw Man:
    • There's a line of Chainsaw Man merchandise (rubber straps, keychains, etc.) depicting the characters as babies. It isn't even aimed at children as the trope would imply, but rather at the general kawaisa demographic (mostly women), so while at least the products aren't aimed at an inappropriate demographic, there's still the issue of characters from a very gory and violent manga/anime being depicted as cute babies to be worn on your backpack. Gets even weirder when you see that Aki still has piercings, Himeno still has an eyepatch, and the line features Makima in the first place.
    • Makima in general has had a ton of cuddly plush toys based on her, despite the fact that she's a monstrous child groomer and abuser. One of these toys, the ball-shaped Korotto Collection plush of her, underwent Memetic Mutation and became known as "Makima bean" for the sheer audacity of its very existence.
    • The "Niformation" line of Super-Deformed stickers that come with wafers includes Chainsaw Man alongside other series such as Jujutsu Kaisen and the more family-friendly One Piece. Not at all unusual, until you realize that they're marked for ages 6 and up. Even considering Japan's Values Dissonance, it's difficult to imagine anyone with a single-digit age being interested in half of the series represented, with CSM being the most egregious example.

  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Hasbro has a 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 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 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 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.
    • There are even baby clothes released for most of the live action Spider-Man movies, which are rated PG-13.
    • Quite a bit of the Super Hero Squad line is odd either for violence levels (The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Deadpool, and Blade— complete with Cute Little Fangs) or obscurity (would the 3-to-5-year-olds this line is aimed at have even heard of The Sentry, Ben Reilly, Sentinel, The Blob, Spiral 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 (Egmont) 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. 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. Doc Ock is not only a villain but once took over Spidey's body in the comics, so 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 recovers; and among the Arkham inmates Bane lets loose are 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 did with its Disney Princess line prior to the "Dream Big, Princess" Retool in 2016 — including Mulan. Instead of the female empowerment or ass-kicking Sweet Polly Oliver from an ancient story during that period, she was lumped in with the princesses and put in pretty dresses and makeup. 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 note ... but she was more popular than Pocahontas (and don't even get us started on her...), so into the line-up she went.
    • "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, Aurora wears pink (look closely; they also give her purple eyes) when she wore blue for the final third of the filmnote , and all of the famous 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 pre-2016 coloring books and Direct to Video features were 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 was not only sculpted with Barbie feet (i.e. can only wear heels) but this is the product description on the back of the box:
    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 
    • 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 and Giselle from Enchanted, though the latter was because of how much it would cost to use her actress' image) 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.
    • The addition of Moana to the lineup could also qualify as this, as in the movie she's from, there's a scene where she claims she's not a princess, but rather the daughter of a chief.
  • Disney Stores have sold stuffed Cruella de Villes, Oogie Boogies, Jafars, and Aslans, the last of which is probably a sin of some sort (at least if you're Orthodox).
    • There's also some stuffed Oogie Boogie dolls that were made before the Disney Store models and manufactured by Applause (a name you don't hear very much of these days). They 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. There were also Barbie-sized dolls of the good guys, 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.
    • 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.
    • Toy Story 3 has 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.
    • Official Forky toys were released around Toy Story 4, which has been the subject of mockery. The whole point of Forky is that he is not built like a "real" toy, so it's a bit strange to see well-craftednote  plushes and action figures of a toy clumsily designed by a four-year-old. There are Build-Your-Own-Forky kits, however.
  • There are officially licensed Finding Nemo fish tanks, which completely goes against the message of the film about how fish belong in the wild, though to be fair most pet fish are captive-bred. Not only that, some of the tanks sold are FAR too small to comfortably house any species of fish at all.
  • 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.
    • 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 the Bing Bong-inspired one isn't so much, as 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 the ever-accentuating grip of the suburban consumerist lifestyle, 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 die, making a beach-themed playset featuring said fairies... rather morbid.
  • Moana had a Maui costume consisting of a bodysuit covered with the character's tattoos and a leaf Loincloth. It was quickly pulled from shelves after people pointed out that since the costume mimics the character's skin color, it could be seen as a form of brownface (well, brown-everything-except-face). More importantly, the Maori themselves complained that this was appropriation of their culture for profit, as their unique style of tattoo are meant to have spiritual if not outright religious significance, especially during their pre-Christian history.
  • Encanto: Executives reportedly tried to push a different body type for Luisa as they believed her muscular build made her less relatable to the target audience, and the toy makers similarly assumed that she would be less popular than Isabela because of her canon body type. This led to them making few Luisa toys and many Isabela toys (under the assumption that the princess-like Isabela would be very popular among young girls). Luisa, however, ended up becoming the far more popular of Mirabel's two sisters. This resulted in a high demand for her toys vs low supply. Likewise, the majority of Isabela toys have received no-end of criticism for portraying her prior to her Character Development, thus presenting her as the "perfect, beautiful, golden child" and completely missing the point of her character arc.
  • While not a direct example that goes against what happened in the movie in question, Shrek appeared in a public service announcement telling kids to be active and play outside for an hour a day to stay healthy. This seems like a good message, except that Shrek's face ends up being plastered on every piece of junk food whenever a new film in the franchise had come out. In fact, Shrek the Third was released the year the PSA first aired in 2007, and it had a tie in with McDonald's with even a Shrek-themed milkshake briefly on the menu.
  • A commercial for The Hunchback of Notre Dame McDonald's Happy Meal toys was about a kid in a bell tower not wanting to leave... despite the whole plot of the movie being Quasimodo wanting to leave the bell tower!

    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 by releasing some In Name Only "deluxe" Batman figures that have him wearing costumes that aren't even in the movie, such as "Jungle Tracker Batman." (There aren't even any jungles in Batman Returns.) They also included Robin in the line, a character who doesn't appear in the movie at all!note 
    • 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. A loose adaptation in a children's book called "The Penguin's Plot" similarly bowdlerized the more violent aspects.
    • 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 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, 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.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a more fitting example than many of the other Batman entries on this page. The movie is probably the darkest and most depressing DC film to date, with the Director's Cut even receiving an R rating. Despite this, it received all of the usual marketing people have come to expect from superhero movies, complete with a children's toy line from Mattel and various candy and cereal tie-ins. Hilariously, Superman actor Henry Cavill would later claim the movie was a niche film that wasn't intended for mass audiences, despite the marketing saying otherwise.
    • Batman v. Superman also 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.
  • 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; "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.
  • It's actually quite understandable that toys would be made for Batman, Spider-Man 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. Apparently this was supposed to be accompanied by a Merchandise-Driven, vaguely G.I. Joe-esque animated spinoff series that got as far as some concept art and script ideas before being recognised for the incredibly silly idea it was.
    • ALIEN! ACTION FIGURE! Apparently they are pretty expensive these days, for collectors who want to get their hands on one.
    • The Micro Machines Aliens Action Fleet sets back in the 90's, which featured a Kane action figure featuring "real chestburster action".
    • There are Alien plush toys. They're adorable, but it's difficult to picture a child playing with a cuddly facehugger.
  • Rambo has tons of merchandise - because kids definitely need a figure representing a near psychotic Vietnam vet who destroyed most of the town in First Blood (and the original ending has him committing suicide). One of the most infamous? Bubble gum. Designed to look like shrapnel.
  • 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. There's also a Korean fried chicken commercial that makes the film look like a family feature.
  • Coloring and puzzle books for the David Lynch film Dune (1984), which features graphic violence and murders, lots of folks in latex and tubes up their noses, a pus-faced psychopath who molests and kills his male sex slaves by uncorking their hearts, an explicitly penile giant worm, 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 activity books also throw a lot of Duniverse names and terms at little kids such as Padishah, Bene Gesserit, Kwisach Haderach, Shadout Mapes, and all sorts of hard to pronounce names. Even the pain box/Gom-Jabbar scene is depicted. There is absolutely no attempt to hide the quasi-religious or metaphysical aspects and this might be some children's first encounter of the word "Jihad". The action figure of Feyd Rautha contained little extras such as the emaciated cat that Thufir must milk for the antidote. 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. Hey kids, want to have a sloppy tongue kiss with a Gungan? Now you can!
    • 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 canon, 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.
    • Much like Vader, Kylo Ren from the Sequel Trilogy is plastered on books, stickers, and kid-friendly merchandise despite killing his father onscreen and supervising the destruction of five planets, among other atrocities.
    • 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 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 a kids' Valentine set that was just Kylo Ren's helmet on a heart-shaped box. While Valentine cards for children have no actual romantic intent, an emotionally unstable space Neo-Nazi is hardly suitable for friendship cards either.
  • 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
    • 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 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!
    • From the original novel onward, a Running Gag in the franchise is that Jurassic Park/World holds the potential for endless merchandising — and it's often sharply contrasted with the disasters that come to be associated with it. In Jurassic World for instance Claire finds Lowery's pride over snagging one of the unsold shirts created for the original Jurassic Park misguided, given why they were never sold.
  • There's a Who Framed Roger Rabbit game where the goal is to flip toons into Dip, a substance that kills them in the movie. 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.
  • 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. 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." (Suffice to say, this doesn't happen in the movie.)
  • 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 a Golden Book adaptation of the film. The movie opens with a joke about queefing, so this is an... interesting marketing choice.
  • The TRON franchise is a very odd case. Yes, it's a Disney flick. However, it's a product of the Disney "Dark Age" where the studio was willing to try much Darker and Edgier fare to try and compete in the marketplace. The films and animated series contain some sexual humor, heavy duty religious themes, and a ton of Family-Unfriendly Violence (only the fact it's Bloodless Carnage saves it from being outright R-rated). The one part of the franchise (now discredited) that got a Teen rating was a first-person shooter, that had a comparatively Lighter and Softer tone than the animated series! The merch, like clothing, toys, and coloring books were all aimed for kids.
  • There have been tons of toys spun-off from the James Bond franchise. Although, rather counter-intuitively, the Bond films (or, at least, the Sean Connery and Roger Moore ones) have always been considered family-friendly productions, they're still about a spy who kills a lot of people and sleeps with a lot of women. But kids could still buy Bond dolls and toy guns and cars. To tie in with the release of A View to a Kill, a line of read-along storybooks were released - a narrator reads the text on a vinyl record or cassette and the children follow along - adapting the plots of several Bond films. This was also around the same time a cartoon series, James Bond Jr. aired.
  • Usually when you think of characters to make cute plush toys out of or, yes, perfume, you don't think of Thanos—a character who not only temporarily succeeded in murdering half of the universe's population including most of the Avengers, but also made plans to destroy the entire universe. Yes, kids, cuddle your Omnicidal Knight Templar to sleep! Making regular action figures at least makes sense and granted, Thanos's Evil Is Cool appeal probably downplays the Misaimed Marketing, but it's highly doubtful that the plushies will be used for anything other than a collectible, and the perfume is still baffling.
  • You'll find plush dolls of Mysterio of Spider-Man: Far From Home, despite him being one of the most henious Marvel villains to date. Evil Is Cool downplays this, though and it's very likely that such merch of him is only meant for collectors' items rather than actual children's toys.
  • A Marvel Studios' Hot Wheels model of Doctor Strange's Lamborghini. You know, the one he crashes in a terrible accident that renders his hands useless. Have fun recreating that scene at home, kids!
  • This was a major player in Gremlins causing an uproar amongst parents. The movie was promoted with merchandise aimed at children, from sleeping bags to stuffed animals, all of which seemed to put more emphasis on the Mogwai than the titular monsters that were involved in most of the film's more terrifying and gruesome moments.
  • The Terminator 2: Judgment Day line of action figures, released to tie in with a very violent R-rated movie. And now, the Terminator 2 Minimates, finding their way into Toys R Us stores across the nation. Cute, 2 inch tall versions of the T2 characters. 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 and teenagers.
  • Commando: Diamond Toymakers released a series of action figures based on the movie, despite it being an R rated flick that children shouldn't see.
  • Mild compared to many of the other examples, but there was a coloring book of Camelot that skipped over the rather mature themes to depict such things as Guinevere winning a foot race.
  • LEGO sets based off of Marvel Cinematic Universe films are nothing new, but with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we get a set called Baby Rocket's Ship. It comes with a cute little Baby Rocket model, which will almost help distract you from the fact that Baby Rocket is flying the ship in the immediate aftermath of his only friends in the whole universe getting mercilessly gunned down by the High Evolutionary and his minions after promising they would all escape together. Even discounting that, Volume 3 has the first proper F-Bomb in the entire MCU, so rating a set based off the film 8+ can be a bit suspect.

  • Half this, half Misaimed Fandom: People make replicas of the One Ring as wedding rings. Really says something about your marriage. There's also The Lord of the Rings navel piercing rings!
    • Ironically, the actual prop Ring was modeled after one of the crew members' wedding rings. It looks like every other man's wedding ring in existence. This is very true to the spirit of the original, because the point is that Bilbo and Frodo had no idea what it was. If you actually want a happy marriage though, Nenya (Galadriel's Ring) would be a better model!
    • If Tolkien had known just how much of a merchandisable icon The One Ring would have become, he would likely have been outraged. He genuinely despised the Black Speech created for the Ring's inscription, and anyone totemizing a symbol of ultimate evil would have offended his sensibilities. As a concrete example from his life, a fan had sent him a very nice goblet with the One Ring's inscription engraved around the rim. Tolkien couldn't bring himself to drink from it because of the inscription, but didn't want to offend the fan (who legitimately thought he was paying Tolkien a compliment) by returning it to the sender or throwing it away. He ended up using the goblet as an ashtray.
  • 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.
    • The defictionalized Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans from Jelly Belly apparently used bad flavor mixes for the "bad" flavors (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 — at most it vaguely resembles the Chamber of Secrets. And the action figures you're supposed to pour the slime on, Nickelodeon-style, aren't even included in the set!
    • 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 The Twilight Saga toys at Burger King. Toys for a PG-13 movie, specifically Eclipse. No, really. Not only that, but half of the toys were for girls and half were (purportedly) for boys, one was a wallet. Predictably, the toys stayed in bargain bins months after the promotion ended.
    • There were 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.
  • In January 2023, Coleen Hoover announced that her bestselling 2016 novel It Ends With Us would receive a tie-in coloring book. While adult-oriented tie-in coloring books had become popular in recent years, many people - including fans of her work - were taken aback by the announcement given that It Ends With Us is about domestic abuse and includes a lot of scenes most people wouldn't want to spend time coloring in (especially as adult coloring books are usually promoted as tools for relaxation and mindfulness). Some readers went so far as to say the idea of having a coloring book based on a novel with such sobering subject matter is bizarre at best, downright tasteless at worst. Following the backlash, Hoover admitted she now felt the coloring book was "tone deaf" and that her publishers wouldn't be going ahead with it.

    Live-Action TV 
Transformers Wiki: Enjoy the toyline based on a story about the horrors of war and how it corrupts everyone involved, kids!
  • Breaking Bad plushies and action figures exist. Now you can buy cute huggable versions of your favorite 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.
  • One product that was made at the height of Duck Dynasty's popularity was a pair of toddler pajamas. This is a rather odd choice, as the show does not have any kid appeal.
  • In the early 2000s, Sababa Toys made two "Fraggle Fun Packs", which consist of a DVD with a single Fraggle Rock episode on it and two small plushies of Fraggles important to said episode's plot. One of them, which featured "The Beast of Blue Rock" with plushes of Gobo and Wembley, was fine. The other? Plushes of Red and Boober... and the episode "Marooned", a notoriously depressing episode with such lines as "I wonder what it's like, to die?" and a plot that mostly consists of Red and Boober in a cave-in as they lose oxygen and question whether or not they will survive. Sleep tight with your plushies tonight, kids!
  • The Mandalorian spawned a version of Bop It modeled after The Child, greatly overestimating how many of the show's fans would want to "bop" a baby, as well as the chance that the eponymous Mandalorian would order someone to "bop" The Child.
  • Archie Comics promoted the hell out of Riverdale up to and during the premiere of the first season. This aggressive campaign involved stuffing their comic book and digest titles with ads for the show, which even went as far as to attaching banners to the top of their covers. Promoting your new high-budget TV drama series within the very comic books that inspired its creation seems like a perfectly logical thing to do at first, until you realise that Archie Comics titles are aimed at a wide range of different audiences, including younger readers for whom Riverdale is most definitely not made. Perhaps most egregiously of all, Archie even pulled their Sonic the Hedgehog titles into the madness, a series that not only had nothing to do with the Archie brand apart from sharing a publisher, but was marketed exclusively to younger audiences!note 
  • Little People figures of characters from The Office exist, despite the show not being aimed at kids. There are also several baby onesies with the Dunder-Mifflin paper company logo on them.
  • There's already a bunch of Squid Game merchandise, even though the whole message of the show is that capitalism makes us do horrible things to each other. It was also frequently one of the most popular user-made levels on Roblox, which only made it more popular with children.
  • Retail stores sell Stranger Things shirts with cute cartoony graphics, including a cartoonish Demagorgon just hanging out with the kids without trying to kill them. This may work as an ironic adults' T-shirt, but they come in elementary school kids' sizes, despite the show's frequent Nightmare Fuel.

  • 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. 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?
  • Little Big has a separate line of merchandise called Little Big Kids, aimed to children as young as 5 years old. Even completely dismissing the harsh language in a lot of their songs, their music videos are known for their Mind Screw takes on political satire, violence, and sexual imagery. One of the more famous videos depicts lead singer Ilich boasting about his pixelated Gag Penis accompanied by sexually juxtaposed food items and the Erotic Eating of a phallus shaped lollipop. Not exactly kid friendly.
  • Fisher-Price’s has a line of KISS Little People figures. Because kids nowadays are into aging glam-rock stars in Monster Clown makeup. At this point they might as well stop pretending and admit that they’re catering to the Periphery Demographic.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • 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).

    Tabletop Games 

  • Wendy's Japan did a movie tie-in for Titus (1999). 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!

  • Transformers:
    • 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 agreed to be an awesome figure by most fans, even those who detest the character—though 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.
  • 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. This can lead to some rather odd dissonance. In 2013, we got a set based on The Dark Knight Rises, 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.
  • One Canadian edition of the Sears Wish Book features a photo of a little girl surrounded by oversized plush toys, most of which are of kid-friendly characters such as Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer, but there are also ones of characters from The Simpsons and surprisingly, South Park. Keep in mind that all of these toys, including the South Park ones, are listed as being for ages 3 and up.
  • In the early 2000s, someone at American Greetings got the wise idea of spinning off Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears into his own line of clothes. While the idea itself isn't wrong given Grumpy's popularity with the Care Bears fandom, the execution was off by several miles- American Greetings was for some reason convinced that Grumpy Bear's fans are goths and all the merchandise released under the line were tacky goth colored dark red and navy blue on black with gothic font peppered everywhere. This went as far as the downloadable wallpapers on the American Greetings website. And to keep the merch from falling into the hands of regular fans and to prevent Moral Guardians from coming after them, the spinoff was never advertised widely- which led to the misconception that the then-holder of the rights to the franchise, Play Along Toys, did not want two blue-colored bears and cancelled Grumpy in favor of Bedtime Bear. Thankfully, this was corrected by the mid-2000s, when the Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot reboot came around.

    Video Games 
  • Halo Wars toy sets by Mega Bloks. It seems reasonable, until you remember that the Halo series in general (until 5) is rated M (though it was, and still is, lighter on graphic violence compared to another contemporaries). Mega Bloks in general does have a tendency toward going for licences that fall under this trope.
  • 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. To their credit, however, the description on the figure was correct for most of development. The red knight armor was originally intended to be this games version of the elite knight set, heavily featured in marketing and something the player could get quite easily. In the alpha and beta builds of the game, that was still true. It wasn't until very late that that was changed, making this a case of outdated marketing more than anything else.
  • 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 (all of which were simply recolored GI Joe accessories and vehicles). For a video game series centered around unarmed hand-to-hand combat. Whoops.

    Western Animation 
  • Several times, Burger King has released The Simpsons toys. Since the show has 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 references a lot of things that only people above 13 will get or remember — a lot of its humour will go right above kids' heads, these promotions seem to not make sense.
  • Family Guy had Knex sets aimed at people as young as eight years old, when the target demographic are teens and adults. The actual show also contains tons of Black Comedy, among other not-so kid-friendly themes.
  • Young Justice was cancelled because the audience of the show wasn’t who the network wanted it to be, causing the merchandise line to fail. As a more mature and serizalied show, it was watched by teens, young adults, and adult comic fans. The merchandise line was mostly toys aimed at 8-12 year olds. The show didn't attract much attention from children or older toy collectors, so the only people who would be interested in toys weren't watching the show and therefore didn't care, and the only people who did watch the show weren't interested in toys.
  • A PAW Patrol plush chew toy of Chase exists. It may seem OK at first, but then one realizes that these are made for dogs to chew on...

Other Marketing Oddities

    In General 
  • 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 catchy commercial for this example:
    "Now, Prince of Thieves is an EXCITING CEREAL!!!"
    • Not only that, but the pieces of that cereal are supposed to be shaped like arrows, but instead came out looking like... something else.
    • "Jurassic Park Crunch" was Lucky Charms with dinosaur shapes.
    • The tradition still goes on today, with things like popular children's shows and movie franchises. Most of them are the same cereal, only with the cereal bits and marshmallows molded into shapes that tie into the advertised theme.
    • Funko lovingly pays tribute to this trend with its adult-oriented "FunkO's" line — a basic multigrain cereal is themed by color and box art to a particular character, with a mini Pop! figure of them inside. Many of the characters are humorously inappropriate: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Gollum, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Clark Griswold, Dr. Ian Malcolm, Snowball, Knives Chau, etc. However, plenty of the characters used for this promotion are kid-friendly, such as Mega Man, the Green Ranger, Huckleberry Hound, Marvin the Martian and Tommy Pickles — they just happen to (usually) have been around long enough that nostalgic adults appreciate them too.
  • 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, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and The Flintstones. And even though it is intended for adults, seeing a Sharknado slot machine is just plain weird. 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 film or novel, often the film of a book — via their catalog and website. Some of them make a certain amount of sense, such as when the work is set in a time and place where Tea and Tea Culture is Serious Business, but others... not so much. So far they've tackled:
  • Great Eastern Entertainment, a known merchandise licensee in the anime fandom, attempts to avert this phenomenon by putting "Not for children under 15 years" warnings on their toys, accessories, and decor, in an attempt to show these things are meant to be collectible items for fans to present on their shelf and occasionally handle, not regular household objects to mess with (hence the weird hanging string loops on the plushes). While this is understandable for most properties, which are anime for teenagers or older, this phenomenon is rather played straight for the kid-targeted properties, notably Sonic the Hedgehog. Because there's nothing genuinely harmful for the 15-unders and it's nice to snuggle up with a cuddly plush of your favorite Sonic character, parents keep buying Great Eastern Entertainment merchandise for their children.
  • In general, dog toys based on beloved licensed characters are very odd when you really think about it—surely there are better ways to show your love for a character than having your dog chew on it. Some companies at least had the foresight of having the dog toys be in the likeness of villains from their properties.
  • Piñatas based on licensed characters, considering the fact the whole point is to repeatedly beat the character with a stick and break it open! The modern piñata, as introduced to the Americas via Spanish missionaries, was originally meant to represent Satan...
    • Some modern pinatas avert this by having a design of the characters on the pinata instead, and strings at the bottom to pull to get the candy out instead of destroying it.
  • Bizarrely, many have used the likeness of Martin Luther King Jr. in advertisements to sell everything from clothes, mattresses, strip clubs to even firearms. Putting aside the questionable commercialization of a revered civil rights activist, many conveniently overlook how King was a non-violent Christian socialist who openly denounced wasteful capitalism, materialism and the appropriation of his likeness to sell products. Some glaring examples include a 2018 Dodge SuperBowl commercial featuring a speech in which King denounced consumerism and a Fortnite event that allows players to watch King's speeches while dressed as the Xenomorph or Rick Sanchez.
  • Disney Adventures magazine, despite being a magazine aimed at kids, has advertised several un-kid friendly movies and shows, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien, The Good Son, For Richer or Poorer, and Father of the Pride, among others.

    Anime & Manga 

  • The 1997-1999 Oldsmobile Cutlass, a short-lived badge-engineered version of the erstwhile Chevrolet Malibu sedan in a more luxo form was ostensibly aimed at families as a rather safe, inoffensive family sedan, but it was more popular with single women in their 20s and went against the conservative image Oldsmobile had. The Oldsmobile Cutlass 3.1 V6 GLS was sought-after.
  • Toyota also fell victim to this twice:
    • The Toyota Vienta VXV 10, a luxo version of the Camry sedan and stationwagon sold between October 1995 and August 1997, was meant to be aimed at families, but those who bought the CS/V auto model were largely younger, richer Australians who wanted something sporty yet didn't look overtly sporting and could afford the high insurance. Toyota wanted a luxo family car, but ended up getting something of an unintentional Rice Burner without the stigma a sports car had; incidentally, there was never a true sporty variant of the Vienta, as the Touring version which was upscale, was more luxo than sport-luxo despite advertising at the time.
    • The Toyota Aurion GSV 40, sold only in Australia and New Zealand, was initially aimed at the older crowd who found a Camry too small, and wanted a pleasant, powerful V6. The upscale Presara trim level was supposedly aimed at an older crowd, but rich young Australian women would buy it due to the fact the car wasn't emphatically sporty-looking and because it was spacious.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: A 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.
  • 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 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!"
  • 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) 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.
  • Even before the Shazam! franchise was Screwed by the Lawyers, Fawcett itself was capable of causing branding problems quite on their own; Captain Marvel Jr. comics was not a "junior" version of Captain Marvel the title implied, if anything Freddy Freeman's storylines were Darker and Edgier than Billy Batson's.
  • Brazilian Franchise Monica's Gang is a Cash-Cow Franchise with many merchandise, some of them are really bizarre if you take the comic's universe into consideration. Some of which are soundtracks, with some songs that are perfomed by Monica herself which are pretty decent... if you ignore that there are mutliple instances in the comic where she is portrayed as a Dreadful Musician.

    Films — Movie Studios 
  • The higher-ups at Sony Pictures seem to be unable to understand that ironic popularity and genuine popularity are not the same thing:
    • The Emoji Movie:
      • In the weeks leading up to the movie's release, Sony Pictures reached out to 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 ironic, and he and every subscriber of his (who are mostly adults) were making fun of the movie, something the executives at Sony Pictures failed to realize.note  His reaction to getting invited was priceless.
      • A promotional image 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 be joking about.
    • Due to a surge in memes surrounding Morbius (2022), Sony decided to rerelease it in theaters in June 2022, apparently being unaware that not only were these memes and the fandom that had arisen from it completely ironic, one of the main parts of the joke was that very few people in the fandom have actually seen it. As such, it ended up only making $85,000 in its first day of rereleasingnote .

    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 from The Hunchback of Notre Dame note  and Toy Story 3's Lotso note . The fact that people can meet-and-greet some of the vilest villains Disney has ever concoted 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 (including meet-and-greeting) 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, which have confused the heck out of Disney fans, and have been compared to "a juicy venison steak with Bambi printed on the cover" by Cracked.
  • The Lorax, somehow, some way, received a tie-in commercial for Mazda. It was a major target for backlash 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 the P.R. people are lying" indeed... In fact, almost 70 companies had marketing tie-ins for this film that preaches against consumerism. The movie version of another Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, had the exact same problem- which resurfaced when the company behind The Lorax created and hyper-marketed yet another film adaptation.
  • 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 Wall Street Journal pointed out that between this and having the world premiere in New York City's Central Park, which neccessitated tearing up some green space temporarily to accomodate crowds, this at least would teach children something about irony.
  • 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.
    • Downplayed with Home on the Range, which effectively removed a clear motivation for the villain — to sell the cows for slaughter — so that McDonald's (a hamburger chain) would collaborate with Disney on a Happy Meal promotion.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Merchandise for Lilo & Stitch depicted Stitch as a troublemaker as he was in the beginning of the film rather than a lovable alien who, while somewhat mischievous, loves his family.
  • There was a bumper on FOX to promote Ice Age: The Meltdown where Sid promoted Family Guy. It's confusing why they chose to have a character from a family movie lead in to a show that is very much not family-friendly.
  • The Fractured Fairy Tale animated film Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs was made to carry the message that true beauty is on the inside and you should never judge a person by their looks alone. The film has Snow White (here portrayed as a chubby girl who becomes thinner and conventionally beautiful with the use of magical red shoes) coming to accept her looks and choosing to keep her natural form instead of her thinner one. However, the trailer for the film infamously used a scene that didn't even actually appear in the final film where she was used as Fat Comic Relief, and a poster featured the slogan "What if Snow White was no longer beautiful?", which led to controversy and accusations that the film was promoting fat shaming.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-branded apples were created by a Dutch company. This seems all fine, until you remember that the protagonist of the story gets poisoned from eating an apple.
  • Downplayed by design with The Prince of Egypt, an animated feature faithfully depicting the Exodus story from Moses in the Bullrushes through the crossing of the Red Sea. Aside from a plush toy camel (referencing a brief comedy beat in the film and the general setting) included with the original VHS release, there was little merchandise beyond three soundtrack albums—two of which were "Music Inspired By" releases—and a few varieties of books. None of the latter glossed over the darker plot points of the film — no, not even the coloring book, which actually doubled as a straight-up storybook Novelization and resembles the adult coloring books that became popular decades later.
  • While Turning Red did get tons of toys, most of them were never sold in Toronto, which is where the film takes place, and a lot of people in Toronto actually want to buy the toys, since the movie is about their country.
  • Non-fungible tokens based on Disney franchises including WALL•E, a movie highly critical of pollution and consumerism. NFTs harm the environment because of all the energy they use.
  • For The SpongeBob 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 (probably because American Kirby Is Hardcore).
  • With the release of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse came merchandise for pretty much every major character featured in it...including the anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist Spider-Punk, who, as fans pointed out, would be fully against the amount of merchandise that's been made in his image.

    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.
    • 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 that now fall into It Was His Sled territory).
    • The release of The Last Jedi saw a second big push on sales of replicas of Kylo Ren's mask. In the actual film, he smashes it in a fit of rage early on, after Snoke mocks him for wearing it, and goes unmasked for the rest of the film.
    • Another controversial marketing choice, likely connected to the Villain Decay in Darth Vader and Kylo Ren's marketing: during the 2019 Star Wars Celebration, the official Star Wars Twitter account tweeted a poll asking the audience which side they would be on, the First Order or the Resistance. The neutral presentation of the poll alarmed several viewers, since the account was giving people the choice to side with space fascists. And yet that side still got 27% of the vote...
  • 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 onward 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 The 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 fun it would be to participate in the Games, one cannot shake the whole 'starvation' angle from the story.
  • Godzilla:
    • 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.)
  • 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.
  • The advertisements of An American Werewolf in London heavily emphasized that it was by John Landis (a director more known for his comedy work) and featured a lot of jokey moments, indicating the movie was a silly parody of werewolf movies. Cue audiences being terribly caught off guard when the goofy Animal House-esque farce turns out to actually be a Black Comedy horror movie that plays the werewolf's brutal killings completely straight.
    • In particular, the Japanese poster for the film seems to have been done by someone who only knew Landis as a straight-up comedy director with a touch of raunch (Animal House).
  • Netflix decided to promote the French film Mignonnes (retitled Cuties for America) as a fun, sexy Step Up clone about a group of underage female dancers... despite the fact the actual movie is a drama about a young African immigrant being drawn into the world of the eponymous dance troupe despite going against her family’s beliefs, with the film serving as a critique of the hypersexualization of young girls in pop culture, with a message about the dangers of such sexualized media and the impression it can have on impressionable pre-teens. Needless to say, this marketing strategy did not go over well with the general public, and Netflix hastily apologized and pulled back on it, though it didn’t help the film’s general reputation all that much, especially with it being accused of indulging in the things it was criticizing. Netflix even faced legal backlash, receiving felony indictments from the state of Texas in 2022.
  • The Dark Crystal Book of Opposites. A book (a charming one nonetheless) aimed at infants... based around an IP with copious amounts of Nightmare Fuel. Granted, this example isn't as bad as certain other examples, but it's pretty odd.
  • Edward Scissorhands was marketed under the Fox family label on VHS despite being a PG-13.
  • There exists a Thor alarm the shape of a dumbbell. Not only does this have nothing to do with the movie, both ends are round, so that when one tries to turn it off, it rolls away and lands on the floor.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha is about a nine-year-old Japanese girl who is sold into servitude and forced to become a geisha, which is the Japanese equivalent of a high-end escort. For some reason, American fashion houses decided that this movie would be perfect to cash in on, with Banana Republic and Bath & Body Works producing a line of kimono-inspired dresses and accessories manufacturer Icon releasing purses with scenes from the film printed on them. There was also Fresh, which released cosmetic products associated with the film, such as sake-infused bath oils.
  • Older Than They Think: Singin' in the Rain had a comic book adaptation. What makes it this trope is that the movie is a musical with award-winning songs and choreography, none of which translate well into a static comic book.
  • One of the key themes of Eat, Pray, Love is the outright rejection of Western materialism, yet that didn't stop companies from creating as much tie-merchandise as possible - from perfume to tote bags, fashion lines to tour packages, restaurant tie-ins to embroidered pillows, jewelry to lip gloss, even gelato machines and more.
  • To celebrate the release of Fantastic Four, Denny's came out with a bacon cheeseburger called "the Thing". Not only does it have nothing to do with the movie, Ben Grimm (a.k.a the Thing) is Jewish, and bacon is the least Kosher thing imaginable.
  • Coors Light cut a deal to sponsor Prometheus, the 2012 prequel to Alien. Not only does Coors Light not appear anywhere in the film (the characters exclusively drink liquor), one character even suffers a horrific demise when an alien virus is dropped in his drink.
  • To coincide with the release of The Help, HSN launched a tie-in website selling high-end '60s chic products to fans of the film. Among the items for sale was a floral summer dress inspired by Hilly Holbrook, the movie's deeply racist antagonist, and a chocolate cake inspired by the film. For those unaware, the movie contains a scene where Hilly is fed a chocolate pie containing whipped human feaces.
  • A surely intentional example: The trailer for BlacKkKlansman gave the impression of a feel-good cutesy ending. This is as one would expect for the buddy-cop comedy which the film was moonlighting as (probably partially as a snipe at Bright). While the core action of the film does resolve on an upbeat note, the book-ending scenes make the actual ending of the movie feel rather different. The reason for the Misaimed Marketing, though, was obviously to lure in people who would otherwise have been nervous about watching a Spike Lee joint. This was important because, like Spike Lee's other joints, it includes a lot of subject matter and historical footage that many people find controversial and objectionable. What this led to though, was the movie ironically being slammed by leftist activists for not being dark enough, to the point where some people were accusing Lee of selling out.
  • When The Martian was released on DVD in the UK, at least some copies came with a flyer advertising a brand of redskinned potatoes.
  • The Empty Man was marketed very poorly. The trailers made it look like something akin to The Bye Bye Man or some other "creepypasta-esque" horror flick. The actual film is more along the lines of a 70's horror throwback mixed with J-horror that transitions into a Cosmic Horror Story by the end.
  • While Jennifer's Body is an R-rated Horror Comedy, it is also about a toxic Pseudo-Romantic Friendship between two teenage girls whose titillating scenes are mostly played for Fan Disservice. It was also written by Diablo Cody fresh off of Juno, at a time when her writing was largely associated with teenage hipster characters. That didn't stop the studio, Fox Atomic (a distribution label for 20th Century Fox that focused on teen movies), from marketing it primarily to horny adolescent boys, a demographic too young to see the movie, largely because it starred Megan Fox at the height of her status as a sex symbol. The poster focused on Fox in a sexy schoolgirl uniform that she never actually wore in the film while the words "hell yes!" were written on the chalkboard behind her, the trailer likewise emphasized her sex appeal and bisexuality, and one idea to promote the film (which director Karyn Kusama immediately nixed) was to have Fox host an amateur porn site. The result was a bad case of Never Trust a Trailer that caused the film to fail at the box office, only being rediscovered on home video years later by its actual target audience of teenage girls and young women.
    Cody: ...the movie was marketed all wrong. I’m not usually an argumentative person. In fact, I’m really passive. But that was like the one time I’ve gotten in a fight, because I was so furious. They said, “We want to market this movie to boys who like Megan Fox. That’s who’s going to go see it.” And I was, like, “No! This movie is for girls [too]!” That audience, they did not attempt to reach.
  • At least one restaurant held a character dining event with the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus, despite the fact they attempt to eat children to maintain their life and youth in their respective film, and its plot focuses around the main characters preventing them from doing so.
  • A hidden trailer for Tetsuo: The Iron Man was included in promotional trailer discs for manga. While it's not a total reach to think manga aficionados might be interested in watching Tetsuo, especially if they were part of the older teen or adult Periphery Demographic, this trailer was also included as an Easter Egg in Playstation demo discs, where it was seen by many children without context and gave them plenty of nightmares.
  • The 1994 Garry Marshall film Exit to Eden was a romantic comedy based on an extremely kinky BDSM romance novel written by Anne Rice, which added a major comedic subplot about a pair of bumbling cops (played by Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O'Donnell) going undercover at a BDSM resort to catch a pair of jewel thieves—possibly to make the story more marketable to moviegoers who might have been scared off by the sexual themes. But the film's trailers focused more-or-less exclusively on the bumbling cops, while heavily downplaying the fairly earnest love story about a submissive man's sexual discovery. The marketing campaign managed to turn away almost everyone who might have enjoyed a steamy BDSM love story, while revealing just enough of the sexual themes to turn away most of the people who might have enjoyed a wacky sex comedy. The end result was a movie that barely drew in anybody, becoming an infamous Box Office Bomb.
  • The song "Puttin' On The Ritz" from Young Frankenstein made its way onto an Anastasia Sing-Along VHS. While the song itself is harmless, the movie it's from is not kid-friendly making it an odd choice for a Sing-Along VHS. One has to wonder why Fox didn't use any songs from a more family-oriented film they owned like The Sound of Music.
  • The streaming platform Ivi has the 2022 Slovak film The Enchanted Cave rated 16+. That's despite the fact that it's a sweet Feminist Fantasy fairytale more tame and fluffy than your average Disney Princess movie, and any viewer expecting steamy content and/or a cutthroat Crapsack World would grow very baffled very soon.

  • The Darkness Outside Us: The book is marketed, primarily, as an YA Queer Romance about astronauts from warring nations sent on a space mission to rescue one's sister. The novel is pretty dark, actually, the main characters die at the end of each chapter, replaced by clones in the next one, making for a rpetty heartwrenching read, and many readers wished it was marketed primarily as an adult sci-fi mystery.
  • Night Watch (Series) 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(with laughter?) nonetheless.
    • A report of a kid who loved to take naps with her Cthulhu plush toy: "Me and Cthulhu are gonna go to sleep now, but when we wake up, we're gonna rise out of the ocean and EAT YOU!"
    • There's a 'My Little Cthulhu' shirt. We're not making this up.
    • And 'Cutethulu.'
    • And C Is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book. A board book aimed at very young children. It illustrates each letter of the alphabet with oddly cute Lovecraftian horrors. "Y is for Yog Sothoth. I see all, just like Santa"
    • See also this animation.
  • Little, Brown, and Company made a bizarre attempt at marketing the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels at a mainstream American Young Adult demographic. In their own words, they wanted to make it a "household name". The series is already deeply steeped in otaku culture, and their decision to make it mainstream friendly was to remove all the anime-style illustrations... But keep all of the Japanese and otaku slang untranslated. Chances are, if an American teenager understands what "moe" means, they're probably already an Occidental Otaku, and wouldn't have been bothered by the anime illustrations in the first place. In fact, they probably would have already been familiar with the series through the anime. At best, all this edition accomplished was giving fans of the series a way to read it in public without getting any weird looks.
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Saga. 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 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 for 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 creepy — got Penguin in some hot water; 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.
  • NFTs (which emit a lot of greenhouse gases) based on Dr. Seuss books, even The Lorax, which is about taking care of the environment.
  • The Baby's Classic series are board books for babies based on classic literature. Most of them are based on children's books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and make perfect sense... But then there's Frankenstein and Dracula.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fear Factor's merchandising included candy (such as mango flavored gummy candy shaped like sheep eyeballs and cola-flavored gummy cockroaches coated with icing so they crunch when you'd eat them) and push-up popsicles from Popsicle named "Fear Factor Pop-Ups".
  • 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, as well as one of the most despicably evil characters in the series. 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.
  • Kids' WB! did numerous crossover promotions for their shows, but the most bizarre of them all would probably be this promotion featuring 7th Heaven and Pokémon: The Series. The former wasn't even on the Kids WB block and was for a completely different demographic.
  • 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.
    • Most people did not expect Star Trek to last long, so a company called Remco shipped out all sorts of hastily assembled products, from tanks and helicopters to helmets with flashing light emitters and sonic sound.
  • 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.
  • Lot18, a wine-making company, decided that it would be a good idea to produce a line of tie-in wines...for The Handmaid's Tale. The idea was quickly scrapped when they realised that describing wine as a seduction you "may as well give in" to, then tying it into a show that routinely features rape, was in very poor taste.
  • There's tons of merchandise for Friends that is aimed at kids, mainly clothing, despite the show itself being aimed at a much older audience.
  • Once a tabletop game based on The Queen's Gambit was announced, the common reaction was "isn't that just chess?"
  • This has been cited by some outlets as the reason for exercise bike company Peloton's spectacular share drop in late 2021, as a key product placement ended up backfiring horribly for the company. It signed off on a placement deal for the first episode of the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That... that would see one of its flagship bikes showcased in a prominent role. It ended up being used to show that series mainstay Mr. Big (Chris Noth) has a heart attack and dies just after finishing a workout on the bike. The scene resulted in the company having to do damage control, while some health experts had to make public statements telling people that exercise bikes wouldn't cause them to have spontaneous heart attacks after a single use.
  • Quite a bit of Kamen Rider merchandise is centered around its iconic Nebulous Evil Organisation Shocker, even though they're a group of Nazi terrorists who regularly attempts to mass murder people. But hey, that doesn't stop them from having cool branding, and so you can get things like Shocker clocks and Shocker baseball caps. This has even extended to Shocker's combatmen being turned into goofy mascot mooks and given a line of merch of their own.
  • Yellowjackets, a show about the horrors a group of teenagers go through when they are stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash, was advertised on pre-flight bins that you find in airports.

  • 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. 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.
  • L'arc~En~Ciel had their own video game. And no, it wasn't a Rhythm Game. It was... a Mascot Racer.
  • Vocaloid:
  • In the 1980s, a local TV station in St. Joseph, Missouri used an (instrumental) clip from Devo's "Snowball" as the theme for their nightly news program. The station was likely using it for the high-energy driving melody line and counting on few people in their small and rather stodgy market recognizing it.
  • Christian boy band Plus One were originally created as The Moral Substitute for Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, but the mad rush to market boy bands to tween girls led to Plus One recording a song for the Pokémon: The Movie 2000 soundtrack, appearing on secular TV shows such as Days of Our Lives, and getting Radio Disney airplay (with "Last Flight Out" showing up on Radio Disney Jams, Vol. 4).
  • A pop remix of Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much" was used as the official song of the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup, even though the song (which is about Shania turning down three loser guys) has nothing to do with soccer at all.
  • Gorillaz's 20th anniversary reissue of their debut album was originally announced to be bundled up with NFT art collectibles, which didn't go over well with fans at all, in large part of NFTs being notoriously disastrous to the environment, conflicting with how Gorillaz themselves have been known to have been a very environmentally conscious band (their album Plastic Beach remains one of their most popular and beloved projects in large part for its depiction of ecological decay). Fortunately, the backlash was potent enough that the offer was recanted, with series artist Jamie Hewlett confirming they would no longer be pursued.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • 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 machines like Big Buck Hunter Pro, which barely sold any units because it was an American franchise 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.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WCW made Sting bathrobes and WCW Nitro cologne. Smelling like a large sweaty muscleman ranks pretty low on the list...

    Puppet Shows 
  • Mild example: For the 2021 Halloween season, the PBS Kids app showcased their characters wearing costumes for Halloween. Among these, the icon for Donkey Hodie showcased her in a lobster costume. It turns out to be this trope because of why she was wearing it in-universe - in the episode "Spooky Shadow Swamp", Donkey wears it to face her fear of shellfish while in a museum, and Purple Panda implies that Donkey is still afraid of shellfish. She also wears the same costume in a Halloween message posted on the Instagram account for the show.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • LazyTown aired on the preteen-oriented Jetix in Central and Eastern Europe, a strange decision considering the show's target audience in most other countries was a pre-school audience. The same applies to its run on YTV in Canada, where it aired alongside shows targeted towards older kids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Behold, the Dungeons & Dragons power cycle! With exciting 3-D "Dragon Head". Block of wood not included. (Okay, it seems more based on the cartoon, but still...)
  • This Games Workshop commercial is too upbeat and kinda completely forgets the grimdark lore that makes for most of the games' appeal in the first place.

  • 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 Cirque 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...
  • Downplayed example: Dear Evan Hansen has a lot of marketing geared towards inspiring the audience, with the hashtag "#YouWillBeFound" used often. This is based on the in-universe campaign "The Connor Project", and while the campaign does empower Evan, Connor's family, and thousands of others, it's still based around a major mischaracterization of a suicide victim, and Evan exploits this lie for attention.
  • Little Shop of Horrors had a Saturday Morning kids cartoon based on it.
    • Speaking of Little Shop, one flower shop in Pasadena gave away free seed packets to promote the Pasadena Playhouse production, which is eerily reminiscent of the marketing in-universe that leads to the plants taking over the world.
  • Comparatively mild, but still full of Fridge Logic: the Broadway production of Be More Chill features a Playbill insert that advertises the show's social media and merchandise. The header for the insert reads, "Awesome party, we're so glad you came!" Out of context, it seems fine, being a fun shout-out from the show's Signature Song...except said song, "Michael in the Bathroom", is famously about a kid who is having a panic attack at a party, and the closing line "Awesome party, I'm so glad I came" is either sarcasm or a fruitless attempt to hide his pain.
  • Elisabeth as a show and its fandom is both rife with Black Humor, so naturally the merchandise follows suit.
    • The Vienna production sold a nail file with the Empress' signature. Elisabeth was stabbed to death by a sharpened industrial file in real life.
    • The Takarazuka Revue production sells milk baths themed after Elisabeth. The titular character is derided and hated in the show for taking baths in milk to maintain her beauty, while the people are dying and suffering from lack of milk.
    • The Toho production has sold a Hello Kitty clear file (as an anniversary souvenir of the Mayerling Incident, no less) dressed like Crown Prince Rudolf, and a mini keyring in the shape of a gun with little wings. The Mayerling Incident was a Murder-Suicide in which Rudolf shot and killed one of his mistresses, Mary Vetsera (Adapted Out of the musical), then killed himself. In the show, it's portrayed as Rudolf chasing/being chased by Death and his angels - hence the wings.

    Theme Parks 
  • Th13teen at Alton Towers; it was marketed as "the scariest rollercoaster of all time" and labelled as a new type of ride called a "psychoaster", and boasted a wide range of promotional stunts (most notably the suggestion that guests had to sign a waiver to ride it)... when it was actually a mostly family-friendly coaster with a neat drop-track gimmick. It's generally considered a good ride nowadays but the attempts to hype it up only hurt its initial reputation.


    Video Games 
  • The 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.
  • THE iDOLM@STER: Dearly Stars was prominently promoted in Nakayoshi. Though iM@S had a mostly male fanbase at the time, it did make sense to try and broaden the audience since the series has many elements that appeal to girls and this was the first game that allowed you to play as a female idol instead of a male producer. Thing is, Nakayoshi is aimed at elementary school girls (at least at the time, it's had a slightly older shift since), and Dearly Stars is rated CERO C for ages 15 and up, meaning the game is inappropriate for that demographic. Some fans thought Hana to Yume would have been a better choice.
  • I=MGCM: Since this is a Magical Girl game aimed at adults, Studio MGCM themselves also promote some giveaway and collaboration merchandise that is mostly aimed outside that demographic:
    • The Dakimakura pillow of Tobio's bald middle aged Alternate Self (which can be flipped over to the handsome main universe version on the other side), that could only be obtained by posting the hidden bald Tobio during ad campaigns in November 2020. Something that women want to have.
    • A collaboration with Dyson (a brand of vacuum cleaners): one lucky winner will be given a vacuum cleaner which is Seira's (one of the magical heroines) magical weapon.
    • A collaboration with Onkyo earphones: a pair of special earphones with the words and UI voices of Kaori Tomonaga (one of the magical heroines).
  • While the Klonoa series hasn't seen much marketing outside of Japan, one US magazine ad for the first game features a man impressing a woman by telling her he has "Klonoa" (presumably referring to the game.) This is a kid-friendly game with an "E" rating (despite its heavy emotional beats and Sudden Downer Ending), so the ad is definitely an attempt at appealing to adults.
    • And when the Wii remake of said first game came out, some US copies came with a coupon for a free taco at Wahoo's, probably as a play on the title character's catchphrase. If you don't live near a Wahoo's location, you'll understand why this example is on here.
  • 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 original movie, the cartoon show, and 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.
  • The Street Fighter cartoon is a somewhat lighter version of the trope (coincidentally, it often played in a block with 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 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 a 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.
  • The Pokémon bop bag. Perfect for those who hate Pokémon.
    • 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, maxi pads and condoms are way too strange.
      • The surgical masks might seem like this, but even before 2020 surgical masks 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, Pokémon). Remember that most girls are still kids (12-ish is fairly common) when they get their first period, and that Pokémon in particular has a huge Periphery Demographic of adults.
    • Pokémon toilet paper. Mud Sport indeed...
    • Pokémon X-ray machines.
    • For Halloween 2019, this line-up of plushies, which includes such oddities as Charmander dressed as a Cubone (which gives disturbing implications because of Cubone either wearing its dead mother's skull or a skull in honor of its dead mother) and Pikachu dressing as a Mimikyu (which is odd, because Mimikyu’s whole thing is that it dresses up like Pikachu to hide its horrifying body and make friends, so Pikachu is wearing a costume of a costume of itself).
  • There was an infamous incident in 2010 when Sears was selling pillows and clocks and such printed with one very NSFW fanart involving Kirby characters King Dedede and Waddle Dee on their website. This was likely caused by a faulty algorithm and they eventually removed all items after being informed, but by then it was too late.
  • Angry Birds:
    • Angry Birds Space has board books for babies. Babies aren't the target audience for Angry Birds anyway, and no one would buy these books for babies.
    • They also have Angry Birds baby costumes. It is a casual game, so it's not implausible...
    • There are egg-shaped confectioneries branded after Angry Birds, despite the game's premise being that the birds are out for the blood of anyone who touches their eggs.
    • There were officially licensed Angry Birds Huggies sold in Malaysia and Vietnam.
  • 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. Yoko Taro 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.
  • This Lara Croft memory card is rather infamous for how weird it looks.
  • 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 Hero from the movie, as well as one of the most disliked portrayals of the character since Flashpoint.
  • Sega has had a few marketing oddities over the years:
    • SEGA Slots is a simulated gambling app specifically intended for adults, yet it features slot games themed after family-friendly franchises, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball.
    • They once aired an [adult swim] commercial for the Sonic the Hedgehog YouTube channel.
    • The Sonic Forces tie-in at Hooter's. Which was announced via several Hooters waitresses suddenly appearing at what had previously been a relatively normal event, and dancing to music from the game as the promotion was announced. The restaurants themselves had Sonic-themed drinks available, were decorated with Sonic merch and standees, and gave out coasters to commemorate the bizarre occasion.
  • There are licensed energy drinks branded after kid-friendly video game properties, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man (Classic), and Pac-Man. Despite appearing to be like soda due to yummy fruit-flavored taste, let's remember energy drinks are health hazard for kids and those who exceed moderation.
  • It's common to see Five Nights at Freddy's merchandise lumped in with children's properties in children's clothing or toy sections. Five Nights at Freddy's is a horror-themed game series intended for teens and adults; some brave kids do like it, but they're a Periphery Demographic at most.
  • EarthBound (1994)'s advertising in North America centred around the bizarre tagline of "This game stinks!", using special scratch-and-sniff promotional ads. However the game itself, while certainly unusual, isn't centred around gross-out humour at all. On top of this, the tagline made the ads sound like an example of Our Product Sucks and greatly backfired, which is speculated to have contributed to the game's low sales in the US (and indirectly why it wasn't exported to Europe at all).
  • BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! collaborated with Pinkfong's Baby Shark, when the target audience for the latter is much younger than that of BanG Dream. And it's not like there's a Periphery Demographic for the song. In fact, quite the opposite. The reason why this happened? People jokingly stated they wanted to see "Baby Shark" as a song in the game in a survey.... This is why you don't put joke answers in surveys.
  • Despite having "X2" in the title, using promo photos of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and being released as a cash grab for the film, X2: Wolverine's Revenge has nothing to do with X2: X-Men United, instead drawing on the comics and featuring Mark Hamill as the voice of Wolverine. In fact, the only thing from the film it uses is the film costume — as an alternate costume, the default being Wolvie's outfit from New X-Men.
  • The DS game Jam Sessions, the spiritual predecessor to the publisher's own Rocksmith, likely would have fallen into obscurity if it weren't for the infamous ads that got released in Australia. One of them features a kid shouting uncensored Cluster F Bombs at his mother and trashing the cake she made him, and another showed him forcibly making out with and groping his own aunt. The kicker? The game is rated "E10+" for everyone ages 10 and up in the USA, and PEGI 3+ in Europe.
  • Neopets has been aimed heavily, but not exclusively, towards children for much of its existence. Most of its merchandise (such as toys and t-shirts) is also aimed at children or general audiences, and its small amount of specifically adult-oriented merch (such as jewelry) is normally sold through third parties. The wine glasses sold on the official Neopets Shop were immediately met with confusion, particularly since saying the word "wine" on the site itself can get users banned.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe: While not actually produced by the mod's creators, one The New Order fan decided to make Sergey Taboritsky-themed merch and sell it on Redbubble - shirts, travel mugs, and (believe it or not) clocks. Yes, they even have a swastika visible in the merch. Perhaps they just thought it would be funny, but you have to wonder what kind of person would buy it even as a joke.
  • In South Korea, there's officially licensed Among Us training chopsticks meant to be used by toddlers, which isn't the target audience for said game.
  • To promote the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, Activision got an ad deal with the Game Grumps to make a Let's Play of the game, with Rubber Ross making a difficult course. Not an odd way to promote the game at all, especially since the video came out while Arin was playing Ross's custom-made Super Mario Maker 2 course world. Problem is, Activision seemingly didn't understand that a major appeal of the Grumps' humor is Arin's tendency towards Cluster F Bombs, especially when playing difficult courses (i.e. the Mario Maker series) or calling out bad games, while the Grumps seemingly didn't know that Activision wanted a G-rated video, so there's a lot of censored swearing in the video. They also censored references to non-Activison brands, removing another popular element of the Grumps' videos, the reference humor. As a result, Grumps fans were more angry with Activision for the heavy censorship than they were interested in the Tony Hawk game.
  • Tomb Raider: Anniversary had a campaign aimed fully at players completely new to the entire franchise, even if by default a Video Game Remake should also cater to old fans who'd want to see how the game they loved was updated (even if one year too late to the tenth anniversary of Tomb Raider... and with a few of the levels streamlined in their redesign). Add that it was fairly underpromoted compared to the preceding reboot Tomb Raider: Legend, and Anniversary became the lowest-selling title of the series.

    Visual Novels 
  • Aksys Games has caught some flack by playing down or omitting the romance elements in marketing for their otome titles, in hopes of appealing to a broader audience. This only ended up angering both the otome fans that make up the bulk of buyers for these games who felt that Aksys thought their own target audience didn't matter enough to market towards, and non-otome fans who felt that that were completely mislead into thinking the games were something that they're not.
  • There are officially licensed Hakuouki Fundoshi.
  • One Japanese commerical for the WiiWare ports of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney trilogy features a family of three, including a young child, happily playing through them. These are extremely text-heavy games about murder trials. Even considering Japan's looser standards on what's acceptable for children, it's an odd thing to market to families — most children are unlikely to be interested in games starring a lawyer and focused mainly on courtroom proceedings.

    Web Original 
  • This Cracked article includes many different baffling movie tie-in products.
  • RWBY: When Rooster Teeth released new merch in August 2019, one new t-shirt featured the characters Blake and Adam with the text "Lovers' Quarrel". Fans immediately objected to this, as Blake is an abuse survivor; Adam is her Psycho Ex-Boyfriend whose obsession with possessing or destroying her is portrayed as creepy and evil. Given the reaction, and the fact that the show markets itself as female empowerment, Rooster Teeth pulled the t-shirt and issued an apology a few hours after first releasing it.

    Western Animation 
  • Popeye 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 Society of Friends, or "Quakers" (who have no connection to Quaker Oats, but still didn't appreciate the name of their movement being associated with violent acts), which caused the ad to be pulled.note 
    • 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; 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.
  • One local PBS Kids station used Tank! from Cowboy Bebop in a promotion. It's not at all inappropriate for kids like its source material, due to being an instrumental song, and it's likely a fan working at the station snuck it in as Parental Bonus but... It's still a very bizarre choice of music for something like that, and sort of surreal to watch.
    • They have also used an instrumental of "That Thing You Do!" in a promo for WordWorld. While not really kid-unfriendly (and, again, it was the instrumental version), it's a very strange music choice, even in the context of the show.
    • Using age-inappropriate music in promos for shows is actually not an uncommon practice for PBS Kids. To them, if a song has a catchy and fitting melody, then it can be used in a show promo, regardless of what inappropriate lyrical content the song may contain. For example, one of the PBS Kids Go! "game" idents used "Daddy Pop" by Prince, which contains the lyric "Steady wishin' he could sleep in your bed" right in the first verse.
  • A Massive Multiplayer Crossover edutainment game... featuring Invader Zim. While technically a kids' show, it's also an infamously dark Black Comedy series, so its prominent inclusion in a game which teaches math to 7-year-olds is rather strange.
  • 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"?
  • A book of American Dad! Mad Libs. Although there is such a thing as adult Mad Libs, the audience for Mad Libs skews much younger than the audience for American Dad.
  • There exists an English language school called Pingu's English. While this sounds normal on paper, the issue is that the characters all speak in complete gibberish, so using them for a language school is a bit weird.
  • 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 this is the last straw that drives Ren to remove the helmet.
    • The song was once used by Sara Lee foods in a series of commercials to promote "The Joy of Eating". It's a rather odd choice, especially when one considers the song's original context in the show.
  • 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!
  • [adult swim] sells officially licensed Rick and Morty yarmulkes. There's also an officially licensed body pillow of Mr. Poopybutthole, and Pickle Rick... pickles. Yes, as in the food. A single pickle in a pouch.
  • An episode of King of the Hill was adapted into a play intended for middle school curriculums. Though it's much less overtly inappropriate than most other adult cartoons, and they at least had the foresight to pick an episode focusing on Bobby, King of the Hill is certainly not the kind of show that has crossover appeal on the level of (for example) The Simpsons, so it's a confusing if not exactly eyebrow-raising choice.
  • Ben 10 themed perfume exists. This might seem fine, until you notice thatthe label on the bottle prominently features Stinkfly, Ben's smelliest alien in the show, and certainly one you won't associate with clean. The box also features Swampfire, another one of Ben's stinkiest aliens.
  • 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 & Friends: A Thomas The Tank Engine toddler urinal. Justified, since most kids who watch Thomas are toddlers, but still, not many parents use toddler urinals.
  • My Little Pony:
    • The Merch includes a T-shirt that features strangely Off-Model 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 towards the primary demographic of preteen girls and which things are aimed at older fans. This occasionally results in oddities like adult sized 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 heavily pink and purple packaging (or occasionally blue and purple), whereas adult-aimed products tend to downplay the bright colors and put them on a black background.
    • The material aimed at the target demographic of children tends to intensely play up the girliness of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - a series which, although still traditionally feminine, tends to shun the idea of playing such things completely straight. This has had weird results like all of Princess Celestia's earlier toys being pink instead of white, a talking Nightmare Moon doll which says bizarrely non-evil things like "My wings are so pretty!", and an absurd amount of dress-up toy sets involving Rainbow Dash (who in the show is a largely tomboyish jock who is mostly disinterested in fashion). 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. An implicitly vegetarian cartoon horse has no business advertising meat!
    • Applejack, who is very heavily implied (and as of "The Perfect Pear", one D word shy of outright stated) to have deceased parents, has inexplicably appeared in a Mother's Day card.
    • Part of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic merchandise is the Riding Along Ponies. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy both have wings and can fly, so (not being physically disabled like Scootaloo) it may seem like they have no need for scooters. However, Fluttershy isn't that confident in her flying abilities, so for her its more Fridge Brilliance.
  • In 2015, the Nickelodeon offshoot The Splat tried to hop on 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 knew that the word "Chill" in that context was a euphemism for "have sex". As one Tumblr user put it, "No, Nickelodeon, I'm not going to fuck while watching Rugrats."
    • Some rather... questionable Nicktoons tie-in items have popped up in stores such as Spencer's and Hot Topic, in an apparent effort at marketing to nostalgic adults who watched the shows as kids. While some shows, in particular Ren & Stimpy and Rocko's Modern Life have always had a certain degree of adult appeal to them, something just feels wrong about seeing the likenesses of Rugrats and Hey Arnold! characters on items like shot glasses or liquor flasks.
    • There was a toyline called "Rugrats: Totally Angelica", which included a video game of the same name. The decision to portray the cartoon's resident mean girl as being cool and likeable is just strange.
  • 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 of the series often acting like bullies themselves and mocking the idea of ever using the show to teach lessons. Cartoon Network eventually got the message and switched to using characters from Steven Universe in their PSAs instead, thereby averting this trope (as the latter series does teach lessons, especially about kindness and acceptance).
    • Teen Titans Go! To the Movies has a campaign encouraging parents to find the right size car seat for their children. This seems very odd indeed, being that most of the kids in the target audience of the show would be too old to need one according to the website itself.
  • One curious piece of early The Simpsons merchandise was books for preschool age children featuring Maggie Simpson. The books themselves are perfectly appropriate educational titles for teaching toddlers about things such as animals and shapes. However, basing them on The Simpsons was a questionable choice, as while the series does ultimately have a wide audience, said audience is still not that wide, and the show has always been aimed vaguely towards adults.
  • 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 other,note  and as a result, cross-promotion became more and more untenable.
    • One Saturday Morning block theme was a crossover between Life with Louie and The Simpsons that had Louie Anderson waking up in a live-action rendition of the Simpson household.
  • 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.
  • Iron Man: The Animated Series was released on DVD to cash in on Iron Man 2 and 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 becomes surreal when you remember the show takes place during summer vacation.
  • We Bare Bears: The bears are also on your feminine hygiene packaging. They're only available in China, because apparently We Bare Bears is massively popular in Asia, putting them on the same level of crossover appeal as Sanrio.
  • One piece of tie-in merchandise for the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon was a small toy bow-and-arrow set... which seems very odd when you consider the fact that both the series itself and the video games that inspired it are science fiction works set 20 Minutes into the Future, where Ridiculously Human Robots are commonplace. And many of said robots have arm-loaded plasma cannons.
  • Dinotrux started off airing in Australia on ABC Kids (which was fine), before switching to ABC Me (also owned by the ABC) for its second season. They thought "If it's by Dreamworks, then it's for older kids!".
  • Miraculous Ladybug has plenty of merchandise featuring the show's heroes. The weirdness comes from the fact that the resident Alpha Bitch Chloé Bourgeois and her superpowered alter-ego Queen Bee get more merchandise than the generally more heroic major character Nino/Carapace — even after Chloé betrayed the team to Hawk Moth. The Girl-Show Ghetto might be in play here, given that much of the merchandise is aimed at young girls; perhaps the marketing execs thought the female and fashionable Chloé would sell better to that demographic than Nino.
  • One HBO Max ad for Infinity Train sandwiched the show between the likes of Sesame Street and Esme & Roy, but the series is not for preschoolers. It is primarily for teens/young adults, and contains some dark and serious themes and infrequent graphic violence (including a humanoid character being messily ripped in half, albeit with Alien Blood).
  • Super Friends presents the Justice Jogger. An "overland villain chaser"...for Superman, as in the Trope Codifier for Flying Brick, as in the last person on the team that would need such a device.
  • Learn to code with el Chavo. It is a very strange choice to use El Chavo, a poor orphan boy who has probably never used a computer in his life, for an educational game about coding.
  • South Park:
  • The Arabic dub of Futurama aired on Spacetoon, one of the most recognizable children's networks in the MENA region. While it was edited for content, the show is still not for kids — being aimed at adults and containing some often dark and crude themes.
  • Cartoon Network Asia posted a Steven Universe Mother's Day card to their Facebook page. The imagery on the card is a screenshot of "Storm in the Room" where Steven is interacting with a fake copy of Rose Quartz, his dead mother who died giving birth to him. Additionally, that very episode has a scene where Steven rants about the mess his mother left behind that he now has to face, and briefly wonders whether he's the product of a suicide since Rose knew she couldn't survive having a baby ("Did you make me just so that you wouldn't have to deal with all your mistakes?!"); his thoughts regarding her throughout the series are, as he puts it, "complicated". Fans swiftly pointed out that putting Rose on a Mother's Day card was a very questionable idea.
  • During 1986 and 1987, someone at Warner Bros. thought it was a good idea to license the character of Foghorn Leghorn for use in a series of commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Disney Junior once ran a marathon of Bluey on July 4, 2020 called "Red, White and Bluey". The problem with this promotion stems from the fact that Bluey is an Australian import, and Independence Day, the holiday on that date, celebrates America's independence from Britain.
  • Episodes of Scaredy Squirrel can be found on the Treehouse Direct YouTube channel which primarily has shows aimed at preschoolers. While the book series the show is based on is aimed at that demographic, the TV series is aimed at an older audience more akin to SpongeBob SquarePants. The Dutch version of that YouTube channel also has Braceface, which is even LESS preschool-friendly than Scaredy Squirrel.

    Real Life 
  • 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 women who don't spend all their time in the kitchen still have one. It's weapons-grade irony, but understandable.
  • Ukraine Finance is now giving out the Nestor Makhno Prize for Small Businesses. For those unaware, Makhno was an early 20th century anarchist and socialist. Given his views on capitalism, it's doubtful he would be happy being associated with a prize for businesses.
  • 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.
    • Inverted for many communist and fascist countries. Totalitarian ideologies quite openly state that they see every boy as a future soldier. Military-themed toys and other content are deliberately used by state propaganda to prepare boys for the conscription, whitewash the image of the army and deliver related tropes such as Heroic Sacrifice. There was a slew of Soviet children's books and animation films about how fun and exciting it was to serve in the army.
  • For several years, Harlequin published a successful line of Extruded Book Product romance novels set in the oh-so-romantic world of... NASCAR.note 
  • An insurance company named Independent Health advertises a policy known as the "RedShirt™ Treatment". For anyone with a cursory knowledge of Star Trek, a Red Shirt means that they will often be killed off.
  • Some companies have attempted to use September 11th for promotional purposes in the same way that they'd use actual holidays. Needless to say, exploiting such a tragedy for the sake of making money tends to backfire horribly:
    • 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.
    • Local San Antonio mattress place Miracle Mattress ran a 9/11 promotion, featuring a cheaply-made ad of an employee (later confirmed to be the daughter of the store's owner) pushing over some customers and knocking over two stacks of mattresses that (vaguely) resembled the Twin Towers (because they were holding a "Twin Tower sale"). The controversy quickly killed the ad and very nearly brought the company down with it.
    • In a simiar vein, Israelis take their national remembrance daysnote  much more seriously than Americans do, and are predisposed to perceive American Memorial Day promotions as just as tasteless as Americans perceive 9/11 promotions.
      • People in Commonwealth countries (the “CANZUK” countries) also take their Remembrance Day (on the American Veterans Day) very seriously, and would also consider American Memorial Day promotions to be tasteless.
  • Billy Possum, a stuffed animal toy created based on US President William Howard Taft's...enjoyment of a possum dinner. The toy was intended to be a follow-up to the still phenomenally popular Teddy Bear, and was predictably a flop.
  • In 2019, Microsoft introduced a new version of its ergonomic keyboard that included an emoji key. Given that the keyboard is popular in professional settings where emoji use is often discouraged, many saw this as a questionable move.
  • Trojan, full stop. Nothing says "protection" like naming your brand of condoms after a people infamous for letting in something they shouldn't have, which caused the fall of their city-state.
  • One of Hershey's many chocolate products is a hollow milk chocolate apple, usually marketed as a gift (for Valentine's Day or teachers). Innocuous enough on its own, but someone at the design department thought it would be a good idea to have it be wrapped in gold foil — golden apples are famously associated with the Apple of Discord that kicked off The Trojan Cycle. Naturally, people had fun with this.
  • Ben and Jerry’s Netflix-themed ice cream is given the name of "Netflix and Chill’d." Either this is intentual innuendo, or the marketing people didn’t do their research on the term, but either way, it is very strange to see when taking into account what “chill” means in this context...

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 official piece of Serial Experiments Lain merch parodies the phenomenon with its packaging, a doll of Lain with bright pink kawaii packaging reminiscent of Licca-chan or something else you'd find in the pink aisle.

    Comic Books 
  • 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?
  • Watchmen:
    • 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.
    • This fan video claims 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.
  • From Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: "Spidey Bells, Spidey Bells, swingin' through Midtown!"
  • The Sausage Party Coloring & Activity Book exists seemingly just to have a laugh at the concept. Instead of being watered down and safe for kids, it's as raunchy as the movie itself—even including a coloring page based on the infamous "food orgy."

    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.
    • Thing is, though, Mel Brooks actually agreed for there to be very limited merchandising of the film, as per a request by George Lucas. So, this may have been an intentional Take That!.
  • 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. The Museum Beast was a monster which ate people's brains and (in the novel) brutally killed children, so this is not surprising.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. None of the people portrayed like what they see. The teddy bear was an actual gift to J. Michael Straczynski from Peter David. It later showed up on Space Cases, with the cast wondering who would throw something like that away...
  • 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.
  • Mad TV 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.
  • The WB's short-lived sketch show Hype had a gag in which American Beauty toys are sold as kids' meals in a McDonalds-esque fast food joint).
  • 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.



    Video Games 
  • 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. 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.
  • The Division, in a phone call, you can learn about Charles Bliss chewing out a PR executive for his ad pitch completely missing the point of his Private Military Company. Said pitch apparently a combination of action and explosions.
  • The most infamously bizarre preorder bonus in gaming history, the Ghaleon punching puppet obtained by preordering Lunar 2 Eternal Blue Complete, was likely meant to be a parody of this phenomenon, judging by the silly quips on the packaging.
  • 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.
  • Saints Row 2: An in-game radio advertisement for an in-game jewelry shop Bling Bling is, if not directed at the wrong audience, tonally completely at odds with it what it is selling, with the announcer diligently stressing all the "gangsta" terms like he would current corporate buzzwords in a patently upbeat corporate tone that is sure to turn off the store's actual gangsta customers.

    Web Animation 

  • Schlock Mercenary brings us the Plasma Cannon Safety Coloring Book.
    "My illustrators tell me you're pretty easy to draw."
  • Erma has an in-universe franchise called "Warrior Unicorn Princess". From the marketing, it seems like just another example of My Little Phony. But when (some of) an episode is finally shown onscreen, it turns out to be surprisingly dark and violent.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-261 vends some things that seem inappropriate during authorized 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.
  • 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.'"

    Web Videos 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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, played (of course) 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.
  • In the Arthur episode "The Secret Origin of Supernova", Arthur finds out that an energy drink endorsed by Dark Bunny is actually unhealthy, being against the hero's self-imposed code of honor.

Alternative Title(s): Misaimed Merchandising, Misaimed Merchandise, Merchandising Dissonance, Incongruent Merchandising, Merchandise Dissonance


ALfheim Online

Who is this game even made for?

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (41 votes)

Example of:

Main / MisaimedMarketing

Media sources: