Let’s face it. Marketing mistakes are going to happen from time to time, even to the biggest of companies. The key is to be able to spot a potential disaster before it happens. Some companies like Vodafone and Panasonic have found themselves in hot water in recent years due to some reckless blunders. Here are but a few ways any company can find themselves harming their brand thanks to some poor and often completely idiotic marketing strategies.
First of all, there is a time and a place for politics. When it comes to selling your brand, some companies have used modern events to promote themselves. While this may be a solid approach for some, it can end disastrously for others. For instance back in 2009, the American furniture company Habitat took to Twitter to promote their products. However when they began bumping up interest by using the then trending Iranian protests, they were met with outrage.
Even more shocking is the fact that in Egypt, mobile giant Vodafone fell prey to the same problem. In 2011 they released an advert implying their services inspired the Arab Spring protests. The protests themselves took the lives of many Egyptians and Vodafone found themselves on the receiving end of some particularly nasty complaints. In fact Vodafone and Habitat angered many as they shamelessly pushed their products. The companies did backpedal but the damage was already done.
Another marketing mistake commonly made by established companies is rebranding. Change can often revitalize a dying brand or a product worth saving. However when you have a good thing going, why make a change? Companies like GAP and Coke learnt this the hard way. The creation and failure of New Coke was a marketing nightmare. Not only did they create a new flavour people hated but they gave Pepsi the leg up in the battle of the colas.
Coke learnt that it’s best to pick your battles as their attempts to gain one over one of their competitors came back to haunt them. Companies like GAP have also gone the rebranding route and faced similar problems. When GAP changed its logo in 2010, they received a torrent of abuse from consumers. They demanded the old logo back and less than a week into the rebrand they reversed their decision. Not only did this damage their reputation but it also cost the company millions to essentially nothing.
While mistakes like these can be devastating, companies continue to find new ways to build hype for their products. However, some companies have done this by assuming to understand their target audience, only to discover they don’t. When Microsoft announced their much anticipated Xbox One they highlighted what they thought was a ‘cool’ new addition.
The fact that the new Xbox came with a constantly filming Kinect, Xbox’s patented webcam device, irked consumers. Not only that but the console could only be used online and the console prohibited game lending. Customers rose up in outrage as they argued their privacy was being taken. Not only did Microsoft fail to understand this was a marketing mistake but they also advertised the One by highlighting these problems. A few days later Microsoft made changes but their mistake gave Sony and their competing console the PS4 a rosy recommendation.
Finally, and most importantly, marketing mistakes can be made by anyone. However, the worst offenders are the campaigns designed through total stupidity. Be it attaching an established brand to a completely unrelated product, like Disney did when they started shifting Hannah Montana Cherries, or when Colgate started manufacturing their own ready meals. The worst offender of all might very well be the campaigns that were completely nonsensical. For instance when Panasonic started producing laptops and personal computers. Not only did they think it wise to craft an ad campaign around a famous character, they chose the worst possible one. When Panasonic announced their new PC, The Woody, with Woody Woodpecker leading the campaign, they thought they were onto a winner. After just a few days on the market people were laughing and screaming. Not only did the device come with a ‘Touch Woody’ screen. It also came with online support, unfortunately titled the ‘Online Pecker’.
An unmitigated disaster, the company had to scramble to make changes. The endless ridicule did stop but some things are hard to live down.
While marketing mistakes will happen, you can detect them. These are but a few cases of when there weren’t. The key is to understand the consumer and their needs. While Panasonic, Vodafone and Microsoft didn’t take too much flack in the long run, it’s never good to make yourself look bad.