5 Marketing and Branding Disasters and What We Need to Learn From Them

4 min read · 7 years ago


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Cartoon Network – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

In 2007, decided to embark on a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote an Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. Metal, light up signs were placed all over the city of Boston that were supposed to show images of characters from the movie. Unfortunately, in the daylight they looked like suspicious boxes with wires sticking out of them. The result was panicked calls to the city’s 911 centers and lots of effort wasted by first responders.

This marketing screw up cost the Turner Broadcasting empire 2 million dollars, and the head of Cartoon Network a very good job.

The Takeaway: Marketers must always take into consideration how current events and local culture will impact how their efforts are received. It’s also a good idea to consider the impact of a marketing campaign on others. In this case, they failed to realize that their actions would be a major cause of alarm and place undue burden on the city itself.

Netflix Enters the Digital Streaming Market – Qwikster

After enjoying success as a mail order DVD rental service, Netflix executives decided to expand by entering the digital streaming market. It seemed like a good idea, until everything went wrong.

First, the pricing model was not thought out, and resulted in customers who wanted the ability to order and stream to pay costs at an increase of more than 50 percent. The icing on the cake was the twitter handle @qwikster. Turns out, the handle was already in use by a young man who very actively used his account to talk about smoking weed and going to parties.

Four months later, Netflix stocks had dropped nearly 80 percent.

The Takeaway: When creating or adding to a brand, use a name that you can completely control. Then, don’t bring it to market until all of the nitty gritty details have been hammered out.

It’s Pronounced ‘Chevrolet’ – General Motors

In 2010, when General Motors was plagued with problems that threatened the company’s very existence, company personnel were warned to drop any references to the word Chevy and replace them with the word Chevrolet. Branding consistency was the justification of for this directive. What the company failed to notice was the consumers’ attachment to the ‘Chevy’ nickname and the extent to which the name Chevy was embedded in pop culture, previous advertising efforts, and franchising.

As word of the decision spread, it was received as an out of touch slap in the face to Chevy loyalists. The company quickly backtracked.

The Takeaway: Never forget the basics. Never make decisions that betray your loyal customer base. Never forget that customer loyalty trumps ideas about branding consistency.

Email Misdirection – The New York Times

When companies lose customers, it isn’t unusual for them to reach out to try and entice them back into the fold. This is often done by offering freebies, promising discounts, or tempting the lost customer with some other offer. When the New York Times decided to woo back customers, who had recently canceled their subscriptions, with a discounted offer, nobody was surprised. Unfortunately, when the promotional email was sent out, it went to millions of subscribers, not the intended 300.  The results:

  • A panic based on the thought that the Times had been hacked
  • Angry customers who wondered why the generous offer hadn’t been expanded to include them
  • The lasting impression that the Times was spamming people

The Takeaway: The technical side of marketing is just as important as the big picture side. So don’t forget to follow technical trends otherwise you won’t become successful.  If execution falls flat, nothing else matters.

#WhyIstayed – Digiorno

After Ray Rice was captured on film viciously beating his fiancée, a hashtag campaign was started as an effort to educate the general public about the struggles of victims of domestic violence, and the importance of supporting them rather than judging their decisions. The hashtag associated with this campaign was #WhyIStayed. Unaware of this (or just really insensitive), Digiorno attempted to jump into the conversation with an appallingly insensitive tweet – #WhyIStayed You had pizza

The outraged reaction was quick, and Digiorno pulled the tweet and apologized almost immediately.

The takeaway: Marketing departments must be sensitive and socially aware. Claiming ignorance after the fact is cold comfort for those who are offended.

Twitter Q & A – JP Morgan

On the heels of the Wall Street bailout, and the realization that many of the executives who caused so much damage were actually going to receive bonuses, JP Morgan decided to schedule a question and answer session on twitter. The question submissions began coming in almost immediately, and the overall response was extremely harsh. Many questioned the company’s foreclosure practices, criticized the company’s ethics, and slammed them for their predatory lending policies

The company was forced to cancel the Q and A before it started.

The Takeaway: Companies must make an effort to know where they stand, before engaging customers.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: 5 Marketing and Branding Disasters and What We Need to Learn From Them

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