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Marketing Mistakes to Avoid to Dodge Disaster: A Series of Case Studies

By: Marisol MartinezAlvarez, Fellow of Management and Marketing

In today’s world, messaging in marketing is key. In order to appease to a broad audience, making sure that you have conducted the proper market research can decide whether or not your campaign is successful or is potentially harmful or offensive. We have gathered five marketing campaign nightmares that went horribly wrong and why. Through the marketing campaigns, we discuss the impact of the marketing fails that allow you to see how to avoid mistakes when creating your marketing campaign to ensure entrepreneurial success.

On April 25, 1985, Coca-Cola announced it would change its soft drink formula and launch New Coke. The purpose of New Coke was to establish a better soft drink in the market because the company thought its product no longer served its customers. The announcement was not taken lightly by customers, who were not satisfied when the soft drink was launched. Customers boycotted and voiced their opinions on the soft drink claiming it was not good. By July 11, 1985, Coca-Cola had to bring the original soft drink back because of the negative impact of the New Coke campaign. Businesses always introduce new products to the market, so why did Coca-Cola’s campaign fail? The campaign failed because the company’s perception based on research was not perceived the same way by Coca-Cola’s consumers. The original soft drink had no issues, and Coca-Cola replaced it by introducing a new product and getting rid of something popular and loved. The marketing campaign negatively impacted the company rather than improving it. It is essential to understand that getting rid of a product is not always the answer.

In 1987 the Chinese restaurant market was introduced to their fast-food chain restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken. The opening of KFC was a huge deal in China because it was the first fast-food chain restaurant to open in the region. KFC located their restaurant in Beijing, China, where many locals awaited the grand opening. As KFC extended its market in China, it used its famous slogan in its marketing campaign, “Finger-Lickin’ Good,” which translated to “Eat your fingers off.” The slogan was meant to describe how good KFC chicken was and did the opposite due to the incorrect translation. KFC was the first fast food chain to exemplify its market outside the United States. The company failed to adapt to its first international campaign’s different cultural settings and languages. The translation is essential when communicating a company’s mission in a foreign market. It is crucial that the translation of a campaign is seen and not overlooked.

The Department of Education
The Department of Education tweeted a quote on Twitter by W.E.B. Du Bois that was aimed to highlight the impact of the activist. The tweet was posted, but the post was instantly called out for the misspelling error in Du Bois’s name. The Department of Education proceeded to post an apology but happened to misspell another word within the tweet again. Marketing is aimed at a market full of current and potential customers, which makes grammar a crucial component since it influences the customer’s perception of professionalism and credibility. Ultimately, misspelling errors and typos tend to occur, making proofreading an essential part of the marketing process.

In 2010 GAP decided to rebrand its company by removing its most famous attribute, its logo. At the time, GAP was struggling to maintain business partially due to the financial crisis of 2007- 2008. Their goal was to revamp their brand to improve company sales. GAP randomly released its new logo without communicating with its customers, which did not turn out well. Customers were confused and didn’t understand why the company decided to change its logo to something that didn’t represent the company. The logo only lasted for a total of six days until the original logo replaced it. A logo represents and distinguishes a business. It is what makes or breaks a company. A lot of time and effort has to go into it because the logo has meaning. If a logo is poorly thought out, planned, and executed, it can become a failure that will negatively impact how a business is viewed.

Airbnb launched the “Floating World” marketing campaign on August 26, 2017. The campaign was marketing and promoting Airbnb’s aquatic water-themed rental services. The campaign was sent via email, and promotional remarks like “Stay above water” were made. Nine days before the email was sent to email subscribers. Hurricane Harvey struck the state of Texas. The hurricane caused several deaths, destroyed homes, affected millions of people, and caused billions in damages. When Airbnb launched its email, the state of Texas was dealing with the aftermath of the tropical storm. Even though Airbnb had planned its marketing campaign ahead of time and had no wrong intention, the campaign was seen as insensitive by many Airbnb loyal customers around the United States. Airbnb later apologized for the campaign’s bad timing and pledged to donate to those devasted by the storm. Through Airbnb’s marketing campaign, the importance of timing is emphasized. It is vital to understand things that are occurring outside of the business industry. If the timing is not suitable for a specific marketing campaign, it is best to postpone it until it is.

In conclusion, well-known businesses have made marketing errors that have damaged their marketing strategy in one way or another. As you embark on your business journey, keep these marketing stories in your mind when putting a message out to consumers. Maintaining mindfulness in marketing is key, and by understanding your audience and following these what-not-to-do examples you will be able to harness the tools you need for a flawless campaign.

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