Three Lessons From Marketing Disasters

It has been said that with great risk comes great reward, and while that may be true some of the time, there is certainly the chance that great risk can also bring disaster.

Here are three lessons from a few of the worst marketing faux pas of the past 100 years.

  1. Know Your Audience: The importance of this principle cannot be overstated. A bevy of marketing campaigns have failed simply because they did not consider their target market or audience. One of the best examples is the Ford Edsel. In 1957, after years of hype, Ford Motor Company released a new model of car named the “Edsel.” If the execs at Ford had done their research, they would have known that customers were heavily leaning toward smaller, more economical vehicles, and that the pricing of the car was dramatically higher than the market value. Production of the cars had ceased by 1960.
  1. Play to Your Strengths: Diversification is great, as long as your practice or company is a reasonable fit for the service or product you’re endorsing. If it’s not, you may end up creating a laughable and puzzling product launch like the Cosmopolitan Brand Yogurt debacle. Yes, the same Cosmopolitan magazine that is famous for its fashion advice and dating tips. Somehow the marketing gurus at Cosmo decided that its strength in the magazine industry would translate into a hit dairy product. To no surprise, consumers weren’t buying it, literally, and the product was pulled 18 months later. Other bizarre examples of brand extension are Colgate’s frozen dinner entrees and Bic’s disposable underwear. All good reminders to diversify logically or face public ridicule.
  1. Stand for Something: A business that doesn’t stand for something doesn’t stand a chance. The best example of a corporate giant that lost their way was RadioShack. RadioShack had a strong hold on the market as a convenient and accessible store for instant gratification. No waiting for a charger or cord to ship — just run into RadioShack and your electronics are saved. Unfortunately, when RadioShack first experienced an identity crisis in 2009, it made two marketing mistakes that proved fatal to the brand. First, they tried to change their name to “The Shack” which destroyed their years of brand building. Second, they ran advertisements showing “Weird Al” Yankovic prancing around the store selling toys. This increased confusion over what RadioShack’s niche was, so customers deferred to stronger brands for their electronics.

These are just a few of the worst marketing flops of the past century. These wacky and downright ignorant campaigns are perfect examples of what not to do when considering new marketing strategies.

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Until next time,