People are always trying to make better products, but sometimes what already exists does the job perfectly well. Just because a product is new doesn’t mean people are going to go out and buy it — unless it actually drastically improves things. And often when an idea looks good on paper, it can turn out to be a disaster waiting to happen. Same with marketing slogans and gimmicks. They can look great at the drawing board stage, but in real life they just don’t work. Here we look at 10 of the worst marketing and merchandising mistakes of all time…
10 New! Coke
Coca-Cola is by far the most popular soft drink of all time, but someone at the company in the 1980s believed it could be improved. Thus, with little warning and in a bid to widen the gap between it and other soft drinks, the company changed the formula to a sweeter flavor and called it ‘New’ Coke. After coming out top in taste-tests carried out on street corners, the new product hit the market on April 23, 1985 — and immediately flopped.
After 40,000 letters of complaint, and floods of phone calls in protest, Coco-Cola backed-tracked after just three months and brought back the original formula. The ‘new’ formula remained for a while as Coke II but it wasn’t long before it was consigned to the history books.
9 Electrolux does what?
Swedish firm Electrolux became famous in the 1960s for its vacuum cleaner and catchy tag-line “Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux.” In Britain the marketing campaign did well, but in the US — where ‘sucking’ at something is no good thing — it flopped. The company soon withdrew the tag line, but long will it live in our memories.
8 Pepsi A.M.
Who needs coffee in the morning when you can drink a Pepsi? That was the logic that Pepsi bosses went with when they launched this bid to capture the morning beverage market. There had been a decline in coffee sales and rival Coca-Cola were running a ‘Coke in the morning’ campaign. So Pepsi decided to jump on the bandwagon and bring out Pepsi A.M., which contained 28 per cent more caffeine than a normal can. Only problem? A carbonated, sugary drink doesn’t really go with cereal, eggs and bacon. It only lasted a year after being introduced in 1989.
7 Gerber Singles
Ever walked down the baby food aisle in the supermarket and thought, ‘hmmm, that looks tasty!’. Yup, we all have. But leaping to the conclusion that adults actually want to buy their food pureed and sold in little jars is a step too far. Gerber thought differently, though, turning such delicacies as beef burgundy and Mediterranean vegetables into mush, bottling them like baby food, and targeting them at adults. Needless to day, it didn’t work.
6 Smith & Wesson Mountain Bikes
Brand extension hardly ever works, and usually only ends up weakening the original brand. Anyone who’s read a marketing book or two knows that. But it’s claimed that Smith & Wesson executives were advised their brand was strong enough to transfer to other products — including bicycles. Needless to say, while they may have been a hit with law enforcement agencies, Smith & Wesson mountain bikes never hit the bullseye with the public.
5 Ford Edsel
The name Edsel has become synonymous with failed ideas. Built by Ford Motor Company, the Edsel had considerable hype for its 1957 release. But it did not deliver all the features that had been promised and the car was, in the opinion of most, plain ugly. The Edsel was also bizarrely competing against the Mercury — another division of Ford. Various quality issues appeared and by the end of its short lifespan, the Edsel had cost Ford Motor Company $400 million.
4 Heinz EZ Squirt ketchup
Who wouldn’t want green and purple ketchup to squirt on their hotdogs and hamburgers? That was the marketing logic behind Heinz’s decision to launch its EZ Squirt range of ketchups in 2000. Obviously it was aimed at kids, and it was actually an initial success. But it turns out that people don’t like weird-colored things spread all over their food. Who knew? EZ Squirt ketchup was discontinued by Heinz in 2006.
Viewers, offended by the programme’s sexual innuendo and political satire, began calling their local television stations to complain. The stations then called the networks. Some stations ended the show at the midpoint and because of the time difference between the east and west coasts in the US, people in California and adjacent states never saw it.
Turn-On was satirical in nature, but contained an abundance of double-entendres and was blatantly political. At the time television networks were concerned about satire and closely watched and censored comedies, variety shows such as the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and late-night talk shows.
2 Colgate food
Yup, you read that right. The thing about this one is you know immediately that it’s a bad idea. Food branded with the Colgate logo pretty much equates to ‘food that tastes like toothpaste’. Yeuch! Are you kidding me? But bizarrely the idea for Colgate Kitchen Entrees actually made it through testing and the frozen dinners ended up on supermarket shelves in the early 1980s. Needless to say, the public couldn’t stomach it.
1 Any item sold on late-night television
POSTSCRIPT: Despite ridiculing the marketing ideas and inventions above, every so often something does turn up which catches the attention of the public or a potential investor, and leads to humanity progressing that little bit further down the line. So keep the crazy ideas coming, because without the flops new ideas would never develop and we’d all be stuck in the stone age.