Advertising and marketing is somewhat of a double-edge sword – potentially making or breaking your company and brand, depending how successfully it is planned and executed.
Here, we have a look at some of the failed marketing campaigns which can continue to serve as a warning for modern branding – learning from the mistakes of others.
The Energizer Bunny
The bunny from the Duracell brand is one of the longest-serving corporate mascots still promoting their company wares. For more than 40 years, the bunny has promoted the brand’s batteries by lasting longer (a talent this rabbit clearly embodies) than competitors.
To compete with Duracell, the bigwigs at Energizer decided they’d simply copy this concept – releasing the Energizer bunny in 1989. This copycat mascot tried to one-up its predecessor by simply wearing sunglasses. Unfortunately for Energizer, this concept didn’t connect with the audience – 40% of viewers didn’t connect the rabbit with the brand and thought it was promoting Duracell. Effectively providing free advertising for their great competitor.
The lesson here is be original.
Unsatisfied with their large market share; clothing giant, Gap, decided to rebrand in October 2010 – devising a brand new logo to appeal to a different demographic. The outrage was immediate and devastating with public outcry leading to the original logo being reinstated just six days after the rebrand took place.
This led to widespread mockery in the media and the resignation of the executive who oversaw the entire debacle. Executive Marka Hansen should have been satisfied with their loyal customer base and simply strivied to increased appeal to that demographic, rather than alienating existing customers.
The Post Office/Consignia
For almost 500 years the Royal Mail had been a symbol of reliability and good old fashioned Britishness. The world’s original message and mail delivery system was iconic and instantly recognisable.
But to connect with the evolving world and desperate to demonstrate they offer more than just post offices – executives sought to change the name to Consignia in 2001, a move hugely unpopular with staff and the public. Widely ridiculed (it was even mentioned in an episode of I’m Alan Partridge), the name was swiftly changed back to Royal Mail – at a huge cost.
Like Gap, the Post Office should have kept playing to their strengths rather than targeting new demographics which don’t necessarily exist outside of the marketing meeting.
The Chinese market is one that all brands dream of breaking. With one billion consumers, if you can get a foothold in the Chinese market, you could soon be quids in. So imagine Pepsi’s dismay when their multi-million attempt at breaking into the market backfired spectacularly due to a terrifying mistranslation.
Having settled on the mantra ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ and (presumably) getting a non-native speaker to translate – the cola was sent China. Unfortunately, the strapline on the advertising actually translated as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ and the locals were understandably put off, worried their zombie nan would be back from the dead and high on sucrose.
Always check your message, whatever the language.
Panasonic’s Phallic Flirtation
One of the mainstays of marketing has always been aligning the brand with popular characters. Panasonic’s decision to make popular cartoon Woody Woodpecker their official mascot was never the most controversial of selections – until they started using his moniker, and all its penis connotations, to name their products and services.
The first home computer produced by Panasonic was called The Woody and many of its features following a similar naming theme. Unsurprisingly, not many parents wanted their first family computer to include features such as The Internet Pecker and Touch Woody.
Whilst sex is used as a common selling tool, only teen boys found The Internet Pecker funny.
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Image credit: Blue Spat