What We Can Learn from Famous Branding Fails

Most marketing blunders can be traced directly to a lack of audience knowledge and forget to put them first. Audiences and customers want to know what’s in it for them and want to know that you get them. They do not want to be confused by your message and feel unheard. Here are some famous marketing blunders that we can learn from:

  • Coke versus New Coke: The audience liked regular coke, there was no complaint about the flavor and they had a large market share. New Coke is a good example of not listening to your audience and moving in your own direction without any thought. You must keep your audience in mind when you are creating any type of product.
    Coke customers were already happy.
  • Badly Named Diet Candy: In the 70s a very popular diet candy called Ayds came onto the market. Shortly after, in the early 80s, a horrible disease called AIDS was sweeping the nation. If the makers had kept their ears to the ground regarding trends in the news, they could have quietly changed their name and marketed the candy with the new name.
  • Bad Imagery: Choosing the right images for your marketing campaigns are very important. Think about what happened to The Beatles, ‘Yesterday and Today’ Album with their poor choice of cover. They got rid of the chopped up bloody dolls and switched album covers after the backlash. Again, you have to know your audience. Obviously chopped up and bloody babies is not a good image for The Beatles’ audience.  **Link to original cover – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yesterday_and_Today#/media/File:The_Beatles_-_Butcher_Cover.jpg
  • Underestimating the Creepy Factor: You’ve seen the Burger ‘King’ commercials, right?  The King comes into a person’s room, in their beds, and in otherwise private moments, and it is just wrong and creepy. The consensus for this commercial was ‘ick’ and soon the King was gone. Humor is a good thing to use, but you must understand your audience and the type of humor they have.
  • Being Insensitive to Various Groups: In the famous Snickers commercial, Mr. T. bullies and makes fun of a speed walker for his choice of exercise and literally shoots him with Snickers bars. This commercial was not funny and did not bring home the message of a yummy, filling, peanut-filled snack to give you energy. Instead, it made people angry and they did not even notice the product. Your audience is first; product placement needs to make them feel good about using it.
  • Going Too Far with a Joke:  You are likely familiar with Skittles Pox and while those commercials are funny, the first foray into “Touch the Rainbow” campaigns was not as funny. A commercial about a man who can not touch anything, including his grandson due to turning everything into Skittles is not funny. It would be funnier if non-living things turned to Skittles instead of killing people.  Death never translates well in marketing messages.
  • Using Bad Puns as Marketing: Maybe it was on purpose, maybe not, but when Disney Garden came out with Hannah Montana ‘Red Cherries,’ it did not go over too well. It is very important to ensure that your message is not made into a bad joke. This, of course, starts with knowing your audience, understanding modern meanings for words, and testing your message.

Most marketing companies do not mean to make bad puns, turn their company into a joke, or have the point of their advertisements missed altogether. But, it does happen. And as you can see, it happens to large corporations with experts who should know better. Maybe it just goes to show that you can not get to know your audience enough, or keep your ear to the ground enough, or test your messages enough.

About the Author SBCA Team

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