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Dell Marketing Stunt Almost Turns Deadly

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In the history of bad promotional stunts, there have been a couple doozies.

Remember Cartoon Network's decision to post LED displays in several cities, prompting a city-wide response to a terrorist threat? Or how about Sony using a decapitated goat carcass to promote God of War II? And who could forget Cadbury Schweppes holding a scavenger hunt... in a historically prominent cemetery?

But as poorly planned as those situations were, human life was never really at risk.

Leave it to Dell to stage a marketing stunt that could've easily ended with a loss of life. Here's the bright idea.

To promote the new Dell Streak tablet -- as well as its feature integration with Harley Davidson -- the company had "a person dressed as a biker in all black with a black mask" enter the one of the Dell campus buildings in Round Rock, Texas and gather all 400 employees into the lobby. It didn't help matters any that the masked man in black was holding "two metallic objects" that could naturally be mistaken for explosives.

Basically setting the stage for a hostage situation, Dell employees naturally called the police. And when the SWAT team arrived, the flippin' genius in the mask did not comply with orders.

Round Rock police spokesperson Eric Poteet told KXAN, "[As] if it wasn't serious enough that elevated it to extreme risk scenario."

It took eleven minutes for the people behind the stunt to adequately convey it was a marketing stunt. Poteet said, "Through a series of misinterpretation, miscommunication this sent a lot of others into a controlled panic."

Once the matter was settled, police arrested 48-year-old Bryan Chester and his supervisor, 36-year-old Daniel Rawson, for interfering with public duties and deadly conduct. Unbelievably, it was only a misdemeanor.

No word yet if an Apple employee plans on storming Cupertino with road flares strapped to his chest to promote the new iPad.

(See also: Ten Promotional Stunts That Horribly Backfired)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.