Management Training Sales & Marketing

GPI 014 – Study and learn from others’ business mistakes so you don’t repeat them!

One way to ensure your firm does not repeat other business mistakes is to study and learn from them.  Know the reason why the concepts, marketing drives, product innovations and other changes to brands were launched and ultimately shelved.  Some were marketing related disasters.  Some failures had to do with production problems.  Many products are produced and subsequently abandoned because either no one wants them or no one wants them at their offered selling price.  If you learn and review these costly blunders in business, you may likely learn to avoid making them yourself.  Here are a few famous blunders to consider and compare to your own firm’s less costly errors.

Examples of business marketing mistakes:

Example 1:  Movie tapes – Quality or Convenience?  Betamax tapes, a much higher quality better made product, ultimately lost out against VHS tapes in the sale of aftermarket movies decades ago because a simple marketing demand was ignored.  In the beginning of this industry, all recording tapes were limited to one hour in length.  This eliminated a lot of programming and required recording more than one tape in order to capture entire movies.  This was cumbersome and increased costs.  VHS was first to expand their movie length to two hours and then later to four.  This was done even though the VHS quality was worse than Betamax from consumer research tests.  Betamax lagged behind in improving their product and was more costly to produce even though its product quality was noticeably better.  The better-quality tape, Betamax, failed to keep up with changing market demand and ultimately lost in the market.

Example 2:  Fat free potato chips with side effects:  Olestra was a product used to make fat free potato chips.  The chips tested well, people said they were great, the market liked them and all was fine until some buyers experienced cramping, abdominal pain, loose stools and anal leakage.  These side effects quickly ruined a supposedly great product.  Someone sadly made the mistake of believing that these side effects would not be a major issue.

Example 3:  Wrong choice for a car name:  In Brazil, Ford mistakenly translated their Ford Pinto marketing car name into a Brazilian term that also was a slang term on the street for “small male genitals”.  Once realized, this nameplate was quickly changed out and converted to the word, “Corcel” meaning “Horse”.  Someone did not do simple homework first.

Example 4:  Translate car name not verified first:  Chevrolet initially introduced the Chevy Nova in Mexico years ago with a name that translated “no go”.  Inadequate local research was done before going to the market.

Example 5:  Vacuum name and motto sends the wrong signal:  A Scandinavian manufacturer of vacuum sweepers introduced its product into the United States “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

Example 6:  Failed beer to water crossover:  Coors tried to expand its drinks market by selling bottled water, but failed to stretch the brand name.  The company tried to market Rocky Mountain Spring Water but did not realize beforehand its customers only related the brand name to beer.  They did not buy the new line of water and the water campaign quickly failed.

Example 7:  Fashion yogurt fails:  Cosmopolitan tried to market its own brand of yogurt but failed.  Its brand name in the mind of its readers relates to fashion and not to the supermarket thus making it hard for its customers to relate the brand name to a food line.

Example 8:  A higher priced PC with no added benefits:  IBM tried to sell an IBM PCjr, a smaller personal computer initially with a substandard keyboard (IBM upgraded later but it was too late), incompatible file exchange system (files did not fit from IBM PCjr to IBM PC), inadequate memory and a list of other software problems, all because the company felt the name would sell the product, absent enough benefits to the consumer.  The public did not buy it and the PCjr was pulled off the market within months.

Example 9:  A new Coke when no one wanted one:  Coca Cola came out with a New Coke that was going to have a sweeter taste to compete with Pepsi but the consumer balked.  Customers did not like the change in a brand that they had grown up with and fought back.  The New Coke offering was taken off the market.

Example 10:  Coke fails to sell bottled Dasani water from a London tap:  Coca Cola tried to sell bottled water under the Dasani name in England but neglected to tell the public it came from a tap in downtown London versus drawn from fresh country springs like its competitors.  The launch failed in England, was cancelled throughout Europe and damaged Coke’s reputation in Europe.

Example 11:  A smokeless cigarette up in smoke:  RJ Reynolds tried to market a smokeless cigarette thinking the public might consider the product safe and more appealing.  It was difficult to light the cigarette and once lit, tasted very bad.  The company scrapped $300 million of research and development costs.  One must ask, “Did they get anyone to try it first?”

Example 12:  The Hula Burger was not:  Ray Croc, the founder of McDonald’s came up with the filet-of-fish sandwich back in the 1960s to create more sales on Fridays when many people did not eat meat.  In addition to the fish alternative, he also came up with a sandwich called the Hula Burger, a slice of pineapple between two pieces of cheese on a bun.  As one might guess, this was not his best idea and ultimately failed to take off with the public.

Example 13:  Names can send unintended signals at times:  General Electric and Plessey joined to form a telecommunications company.  The name chosen was GPT, GEC-Plessey Telecommunications.  In Europe, it was not welcomed.  In French, when sounding the three letters, when pronounced, the three initials sound like the French equivalent of saying, “I’ve just farted.”

Example 14:  Do not let academics create your marketing mottos:  Drake University tried to use their name’s first letter in a promotional campaign, “D+ Drake University; Your Potential Plus Our Opportunities“.  It was misconstrued, obviously did not work and was quickly pulled from the market.

Example 15:  They like your guns, not your bicycles:  Smith and Wesson (S&W) thought their brand name for guns would carry over with their introduction of a bicycle in 2002.  Consumers were confused and the idea failed.

Example 16:  Candy maker failed at soda crossover:  Lifesavers candy introduced in 1912 and named such because of its similarity to actual life saving devices, introduced a soda but the market thought it would taste like liquid candy and the product failed.

Example 17:  I don’t want food in my hair!  Clairol tried to introduce a shampoo called “Touch of Yogurt” but consumers could visualize what their hair would look like with a food product massaged into it.

Example 18:  Misnamed energy drink too extreme!  Cocaine was the name for an energy drink introduced to compete with Red Bull.  It had three and one half times the caffeine that Red Bull had, but the FDA recalled the product because it was indirectly selling a product with a name of an illegal product.  It was pulled from the market but still sells in Europe and on the internet.

Example 19:  Ben Gay on your shoulders, yes, in your mouth, no!:  Ben Gay, the famous maker of creams and topical ointments for muscle soreness, tried to introduce an aspirin but failed when consumers could not fathom putting Ben Gay in their mouths.

Example 20:  Metric versus English measurement systems:  NASA lost $125 million on a satellite that had to be abandoned in space.  Someone made a very simple assumption not checked by anyone early during the program.  Lockheed Martin, a space contractor, mistakenly assumed the English measurement system in their Denver office while their California office used the metric system.  Both teams proceeded using their different systems and could not coordinate the logistics information.  The satellite was lost by NASA.

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