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When marketing fails

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Marketing mistakesNo matter how good your product is, the bad marketing decision can ruin all your efforts and your company, too. Here are some of the biggest marketing mistakes of all times.


The mistake Coca-Cola Company did with its new flavour is legendary and it deserves to be mentioned at the beginning of every marketing article and course. Since the 19th century, The Coca-Cola Co. was building its brand focusing on the single product and it was doing that quite well. Then, in the early days of 1985, the news slowly find its way to the public: the company is working two years on a new flavour and it is doing that in the utmost secrecy.

On April 23, the company launched New Coke with all bells and whistles, they even painted the traditionally red airplane in blue. The new Coke was "smoother, bolder and rounder", said the company, totally unaware of the events that will follow. The buyers weren't satisfied, then they started to buy large amounts of old Coke before it goes off the shelves, then they started to complain and it ended in a open war with the company.

People started to sell the old Coke for 30 dollars a case, and the old bubbles were almost turned to campaign. "Not good" turned to "shame" and finally to "garbage" and company was forced to stop producing the new flavour. Although all testing was done, target groups were satisfied with the new flavour and marketing department got enormous amount of money, the new drink failed big time. Why?

The leadership simply forgot what Coca-Cola is. It's not a simple drink, it is a lifestyle for millions of Americans, and new flavour was like "the new design of the American flag, a very ugly design". Simply put, marketers forgot what they are selling.

Of course, when Coca-Cola fails, PepsiCo is happy. So, it rushed to conquer the market with basically the same drink. The company was successful in gaining the significant market share when some clever marketer came to the idea to change the traditional color from dark blue to light blue. It supposed to show freshness of the new drink, but they forgot one simple detail: in Asia light blue is associated with death and mourning.

For some reason, people at PepsiCo are obsessed with death. When they started marketing its products in China they translated their slogan, "Pepsi Brings You Back to Life" - literally. The slogan in Chinese read "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave." Knowing that China and India have 2.5 billion customers, we can see how big market was lost because of one color and one sentence.

While we are at bad translations, and there are plenty of them, let us mention some less-known. Chicken company Frank Perdue came to a motto "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." This is a quite good motto, but the company wanted to conquer Spanish marked in the south US and Mexico. They translated the line to "It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate." The product failed and the company had tough time and spent millions to recover.

Of course, the American marketers are not the only ones who think that cultural difference is not important. When Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux made a campaign for the American market they came up with a brilliant line: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux". Spanish is for some reason a giant obstacle for translators. Coors Brewing Company made a terrible accident when it wrote slogan "Turn it loose" into Spanish - "Suffer from diarrhea" is not a reason to buy their beer.

Back in 1957, Ford Motor Company launched Edsel, the revolutionary car for that times, with electric gear-shifting, self-adjusting brakes, and a nifty speedometer redesign. Nobody wanted it. It's not known even today why Edsel failed and what went wrong, however 400,000,000 dollars worth of development was spend in two years for nothing.

In fact, one thing is known: the top management was so sure that the idea is brilliant that market research wasn't conducted at all - marketing experts weren't allowed to do a proper research.

When you have a brilliant idea and brilliant marketing strategy, you need to have some luck too. Ayds, a chocolate-flavoured appetite suppressant candy, was one of the top-selling dietetic products through the 1960s and 1970s, but the name encountered problems when a new virus was discovered. It's name is AIDS. All marketing efforts failed, the company reacted too slowly, and the death of the product was the end result.

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