5 Biggest Marketing Disasters and the Lessons We Can Learn

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America is a nation that is driven by the consumer. As such, advertising is a staple of our culture. Marketing campaigns are being thrown at us in every direction we turn. Some of these advertisements are successful; while others are marketing disasters. What follows is a list of 5 huge marketing missteps.

1. Holiday Inn Sex Change- Clever advertisements are the biggest hit or miss form of marketing out there. If viewers “get the joke”, your company could strike gold. If they don’t, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. Holiday Inn’s sex change commercial is an example of the latter. In the late 1990’s, Holiday Inn ran a Super Bowl ad depicting a woman changing into a man. The correlation was that Holiday Inn was undergoing major changes and renovations. Unfortunately, audiences didn’t laugh at the commercials, and gay rights activists were less than pleased. Lesson: Don’t try to be too clever. Just get your message out in a clear, easy to understand manner.

2. Chevy Tahoe User Ads- File this under “Viral Marketing Gone Bad.” Back in early 2006, Chevrolet teamed up with the hit show The Apprentice for a promotion that allowed users to upload their own commercials for the Chevy Tahoe. Let’s just say that things didn’t quite go as planned. Users started uploading commercials with less than flattering reviews of the Tahoe. Chevrolet did their best to control these criticizing ads, but the damage had been done. Here is just one example of the type of ads that were flooding the user generated website. http://youtube.com/watch?v=SiE4FXO8nDs Lesson: Don’t set yourself up for failure. Anyone with half a brain could see this backlash coming from a mile away.

3. Crystal Pepsi- Companies are always trying to use the latest technology to ensure they’re on the cutting edge. Pepsi tried a futuristic approach for one of its products, and it didn’t pan out they way they planned. Crystal Pepsi was a clear soda designed to give a makeover to the Pepsi brand. They believed customers would view the clear soda as sexy and exciting, and that people would never want brown soda again. It sounded good on paper, but the reality was patrons liked their soda brown. Despite the astronauts, flying people, and crystal blue skies that comprised their advertisements, Crystal Pepsi was a major flop. Lesson: Reinventing the wheel isn’t always the best idea. You have to give the consumer something they’re comfortable with.

4. Starbucks- You rarely see advertisements for Starbucks; so why are they on this list? Because Starbucks didn’t rely on traditional television and print ads for their marketing. Instead, they gained mindshare by plopping down their coffee shops on every street corner. They also filled the shelves of stores with their bottled drinks and ground coffee. Beyond that, they allowed licensed stores to be opened in seemingly every grocery store, office building, and airport throughout the country. The result? The Starbucks brand has become watered down to the point that it doesn’t represent quality coffee and great customer service anymore. In short, Starbucks became fat and greedy, and they bit off more than they could chew. Lesson: Let your brand grow naturally. If you force growth, your brand will become watered down, and eventually, these problems will come to the surface.

5. The Titanic- No, I’m not talking about the movie Titanic. That was actually a marketing success- somehow they convinced millions of people it was a good movie. Anyway, I’m referring to the actual ship of the same name. The Titanic was a massive ship that was touted as being unsinkable. The boat captured the attention of the public, and it was to be the most luxurious vessel ever to grace the sea. Then, April 14, 1912 happened. During the Titanic’s maiden voyage, the boat struck an iceberg and sank a few hours later. No one could believe that after such hype, the vessel was destroyed on its first journey. Lesson: Don’t make claims you can’t live up to. Only make guarantees if you plan on fulfilling them.

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