Seven Famous Marketing Blunders, and What We Can Learn from Them


My Unfair Advantage


A lot of marketing blunders can be traced directly to not understanding the audience we are serving, and forgetting to put them first. Audiences and customers want to know “what’s in it for me”. They don’t want to be confused by your message, and feeling left out. Here are some famous marketing blunders that we can learn from.

* Coke versus New Coke – The audience liked regular coke, there was no complaint about the flavor, and Coke had a huge market share. New Coke is a good example of not listening to your audience, and moving in a different direction without giving it any thought. You must keep your audience in mind when you are creating any type of product, or any promotion. Coke customers were already happy, so why change.

* Badly Named Diet Candy – In the 70s a very popular diet candy called Ayds came onto the market. Shortly thereafter, in the early 80s a horrible disease called AIDS was on everybody’s mind. If the makers had kept their ears to the ground regarding trends in the news, they could have quietly changed their name and marketed the candy under a new name.

* Bad Imagery – Choosing the right images for your marketing campaigns is very important. Think about what happened to The Beatles “Yesterday and Today Album”, with their poor choice of cover imagery. They got rid of the chopped up bloody dolls, and switched to a different album cover, after a backlash. Again, you have to know your audience. Obviously chopped up, and bloody babies isn’t a good image for The Beatles’ audience. Click here to see the original cover.

* Underestimating the Creepy Factor – You may have seen the Burger King “King” commercials. The King comes into people’s rooms, in their beds, and in otherwise private moments, and it’s just wrong and creepy. The consensus for this commercial was “ick”, and soon the King was gone. Humor is a good thing to use, but you must understand your audience and the type of humor they have.

* Being Insensitive to Various Groups – In the famous Snickers commercial, Mr. T bullies and makes fun of a speed walker for his choice of exercise, and literally shoots him with Snickers bars. This commercial was not funny, and did not bring home the message of a yummy, filling, peanut-filled snack to give you energy. Instead, it made people angry and they didn’t even notice the product. Your audience is first, and product placement needs to make them feel good about using it.

* Going Too Far with a Joke – You are likely familiar with Skittles Pox, and while those commercials are funny, the first foray into “Touch the Rainbow” campaigns was not as funny. A commercial about a man who cannot touch anything, including his grandson due to turning everything into Skittles isn’t funny. It would be funnier if non-living things turned to Skittles instead of killing people. Death never translates well in marketing messages.

* Using Bad Puns as Marketing – Maybe it was on purpose, maybe not, but when Disney Garden came out with Hannah Montana Red Cherries, it didn’t go over too well. It is very important to make sure that your message is not made into a bad joke. This of course starts with knowing your audience, understanding modern meanings for words, and testing your message.

Most marketing companies probably do not mean to make bad jokes, and turn their company into a joke, or have the point of their advertisements missed all together. But, it does happen. And as you can see, it happens to large corporations with experts who should know better. Maybe it just goes to show that you cannot get to know your audience enough, or keep your ear to the ground enough, or test your messages enough.


My Unfair Advantage


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