5 Times Branding Failed – and Why

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Most of our blogs revolve around making your branding great – how to ensure it appeals to your target market, how to translate your branding to your products and services, and how to keep your branding fresh and relevant no matter how long you’ve been around.

But just as important as what TO do in branding? That’d be what NOT to do. So today, we want to take a look through history and talk about some of the biggest branding fails of the past – the times brands went a little too far or tried a little too hard to launch a new product.

Without further ado, here are some of the worst branding mistakes we can remember. Study them, learn from them, and avoid them at all costs!

  1. Cocaine energy drinks – We’ve all heard the tales of Coca-Cola’s early days, when cocaine was actually an ingredient in the drink’s recipe. Well, this isn’t like that. In this case, Cocaine is just the name of an energy drink – one that has the caffeine of more than three Red Bulls. Its makers probably thought giving the product a shocking name would generate some buzz, but their branding ploy came back to haunt them. The FDA said the product was being illegally marketed as an alternative to street drugs, and it was banned from U.S. sale.
  2. 2014’s U2 album release – A few years ago, U2 had the bright idea to forget marketing its new album to existing fans and force the release on millions of unsuspecting Apple product owners instead. Without any notice, 500 million desktops, laptops and iPhones were automatically updated with the rock band’s latest tunes – whether they wanted it or not. While I’m sure there were a few music fans excited about the freebie, it was mostly just an annoyance for Apple owners throughout the world. They then had to delete the music from their accounts, sync their products, and go through a long, tedious process just to get the unwanted music off! It undoubtedly turned many off to U2 for good. (And that’s just about the opposite of what they were going for.)
  3. Breakfast Mates cereal – At one point, Kellogg was looking for ways to make cereal even easier to eat – especially for kids. They launched a new product called Breakfast Mates, which includes cereal, milk and a spoon all in one handy box. Ads showed kids pouring their cereal while parents napped and marketed the product like an easy, one-stop shop for hungry little ones. Unfortunately, those scenarios never became a reality. It turns out, Kellogg didn’t test its packaging, and kids couldn’t get into the cereal, let alone pour themselves a bowl!
  4. Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt Shampoo – Back in the late ’70s, Clairol thought it’d be a great idea to go more “natural,” launching a product called “Touch of Yogurt” shampoo. The product bombed almost instantly. For one, people found the idea of washing hair with yogurt to be just plain gross, and on top of that, a number of buyers made the mistake of thinking the product was edible. They became very ill as a result, and Clairol learned an important lesson: Test your product ideas first!
  5. BenGay aspirin – We’ve all used Ben-Gay before. It has a sharp smell – almost like menthol. It’s not something you’d ever want to ingest, right? Well, Ben-Gay failed to think of that little hold-up when it expanded its brand into the aspirin market, with Ben-Gay Aspirin Analgesic Tablets. As expected, no one was excited by the thought of swallowing Ben-Gay in pill form, and the product failed to take off.

Want to make sure you don’t make a list of branding fails in the future? Then let us help. Contact Haley Brand Intelligence today, and we’ll make sure your branding is at the top of its game no matter what.

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