Remember when Groupon rejected Google’s $5 billion offer to buy the company?
It seemed as if the company’s CEO and founder, Andrew Mason, could do no wrong. That was in December 2010, and some people felt like spurning Google might be a wise move.
Fast forward a couple years and my, how silly that all seems.
Yesterday, Groupon’s stock took a 25 percent tumble after a grim quarterly earnings report. Before the day was over, the Groupon board had ousted Mason, who penned one of the most memorable departing letters of all time
. It starts like this:
“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding—I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention.”
Is that a dig on his family?
Anyway, Mason leaves us with some distinct memories—particularly in the PR gaffe category. For a young company, it has sure experienced a number of crises: some large (its disastrous Super Bowl ad), others more amusing (a missing comma).
Here are a few of our favorite PR blunders over the last several years:
Groupon’s Super Bowl ad offends.
Save the money that would go to charities and worthwhile organizations, the company urged us. Buy Groupons instead. The public didn’t care for that ad, and in a blog post
, Mason apologized—for offending people. “We hate that we offended people, and we’re very sorry that we did—it’s the last thing we wanted,” he wrote.
Groupon basically tells Financial Times: Hey, we're young. Sh*t happens.
In fact, the company said: “People forget we’re a new company. It’s one of those things where, OK, we’re still growing up as a company. Now that we figured that out, there’s no reason to think it’s going to happen again.” That was in response to a question about financial irregularities. For this response, they were labeled “amateurs.”
Groupon threatens small businesses with lawsuits.
Because nothing says, “We’re no longer the little guy,” like going after the little guy in a court of law.
Groupon's PR agency gets in spat with reporter.
goes well. Here’s how it went down: A writer at the website peHUB wrote an informed analysis about Groupon’s financial performance under. The headline: “Groupon has a lousy August.” A rep from its PR firm called the post a “nastygram,” drawing even more attention to the story and the critique in it.
PR chief quits after Mason’s statements.
To be fair, the PR guy—Brad Williams—lasted two months in the role. But those two months in summer 2011 were a strange time at Groupon. The company was supposed to be in its quiet period before its initial public offering, but Mason made a variety of statements and claims, including criticizing the press in a memo that was later leaked. Calling out the media, as PR Daily
said at the time, is like poking a tiger in the eye. Williams quit shortly after the incident.
Groupon tells Fast Company it can help clients run their businesses.
The irony there was rich, I tell ya, rich!
Groupon tells customers, “Computers aren't really our strong suit.”
Verbatim. The company sent an email to its customers that contained a broken link. Its follow-up email with the appropriate link said: “We sent you a broken link…Computers aren’t really our strong suit.”
Groupon: “Enter your gift code bitch.”
This dummy text appeared on a Groupon webpage, and of course, someone captured a screenshot. It happens—but the company could have at least included a comma after the word “code.”