There are good brand designs and there are bad brand designs. Those brands which are great become iconic and everyone flocks to mimic their technique. However, there is something to be learned from those which have failed miserably. By understanding where these branding ideas went wrong, the rest of us can avoid making the same mistakes and having the same results.
Here are 13 of the biggest brand design fails and what we can learn from them.
- Bomb Man Broadcast
Turner broadcasting in Atlanta, GA own a number of divisions throughout the United States. One of the most noted is Cartoon Network. It is no surprise that the company would chose to push the envelope with its marketing to try to engage a younger audience.
However, when your character looks like an animated bomb there could be a problem. Turner Broadcasting posted LED signs as a way of marketing in Boston. A resident thought it was a “terroristic” threat and the company was fined $2 million dollars.
The lesson: Understand icons and how they may be misinterpreted. Also, understand current events and know the region in which you are doing your branding.
- Netflix Qwikster
Have you never heard of Qwikster? There is a reason for that. After trying to launch a subsidiary company for live streaming of their DVD libraries, Netflix quickly realized that the market did not want the complexity of mail, in streaming, and the DVD live streaming options. Plus, the streaming option greatly increased the package prices. The result was a drop in stock of nearly 80% and a tremendous drop in subscribers.
The lesson: Poll your audience to see what trends will work and what will not. Also, keep things simple. If you are engaging your clients that is one thing, but confusion is never met with great numbers.
- Pop Rocks Porn
One thing that must be part of branding is damage control. Pop Rocks had a commercial which was very (and I do mean very) pornographic in nature. The company has not done anything to have this video removed from youtube or other media sites which has lead the consumer base to plummet.
The Lesson: There is a difference in pushing the envelope and going over the edge. Also, even if YOU do not brand your merchandise does not mean that others will not negatively brand your image. You have to damage control your brand. Ignoring negative branding will ruin your branding no matter how effective your campaign may be.
- Walmart’s Fat Girl Costumes
Wording is everything in branding. Where you may have the best intentions, the wording can easily offend as Walmart found out with their Halloween Promotional Web Pages. The company was trying to diversify their selection to maximize specific customers. However when they introduced the “Fat Girl Costumes” a great deal of customers became outraged.
The Lesson: NO woman wants to be called fat. This should have been a no brainer for Walmart. Do not offend your customers. Use wording that will not offend such as PLUS size.
- Starbucks Anti God Campaign
The Starbucks company started a campaign called “The Way I see It”. The idea is that the coffee mugs have quotes from employees about various topics and these quips are given on the cups to the consumer. This is dangerous ground from the start. Whenever you are dealing with philosophical issues you have a huge probability of offending.
However, you can do a bit of filtering. Starbucks appears to have neglected this as it posted the following on one of their mugs: “Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.”
As a result the Starbucks branding has faltered. The Christian base has boycotted the brand which has resulted in huge financial losses.
The lesson: Keep your personal convictions out of the public branding. Philosophical issues should be tread upon lightly. Segregation of your brand and limiting its market by offensive branding is not a wise technique.
- Xerox’s Iconic Name
If you look at Xerox’s stock you will see that there has been a constant decline in the sales of the Xerox machine. Why is this? Poor branding is the answer. The company became iconic for photocopying machines worldwide. Once the company reached this status they should have banked on the popularity.
Instead the company has tried to reinvent an already iconic name. As such the market has dwindled as consumers are simply confused with what image and branding the company wants to convey.
The lesson: If you are an iconic brand do not try to reinvent the wheel. Maximize the popularity and work on the things which are growing your business.
- Colgate Pre Packaged Meals
Your brand is associated with what you offer. If you offer food then it is great that you have your brand on a food product. However, if you are a toothpaste company it may be a bit discouraging to see the logo on such. Colgate made the mistake of trying to branch out into prepackaged meals. The result, people were turned off by the thought of toothpaste being integrated into the food. Although toothpaste was not in the product, the name was associated with toothpaste and customers stayed away from the meals.
The lesson: Your logo is only part of your banding. Your product and your marketing also play a part. If your company has been branded for a certain product do not compromise the company by branching into uncharted and un-researched sectors.
- Burger King’s Creepy Campaign
Undoubtedly the character for Wake Up With The King was supposed to be a bit funny (similar I believe to the Twix campaign of “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry”). However, the ceramic look and the creepy vibe that the commercials and the mascot emitted did nothing for the branding. As a result Burger King dropped in sales and lost its top 2 rating in the fast food chain world.
The lesson: When creating marketing and branding the company must look at the various ways in which a mascot could be perceived.
- The Panasonic Pecker
Panasonic had a blunder of a branding when it introduced itself and Woody The Woodpecker into the consumer market. The device marketed was called “The Woody” and had touch screen features. The brand name was not bad enough for the company; the branding used the phrase “Touch Woody”. Needless to say consumers were a bit put off by the pornographic slang references.
The lesson: Know the terms and slang language before you present a brand. Firestone would not use the phrase “Blow Out Sale’. Understand the word selection used prior to marketing and branding. On a side note, you should never use another iconic figure (such as Woody Woodpecker) as your branding. Such can lead to copyright and royalty fees and legal issues down the road. Create your own brand.
- Milli Vanilli
Ok, for those that are not old enough to remember this disaster, Milli Vanilli was busted for lip syncing when their equipment malfunctioned. The career of the band was abruptly ended. Fans quickly dumped their following as they believed that they had been deceived (which they had). This is not the first or the last band which has lost a great deal of respect from their fakeness.
The Lesson: Be a genuine brand. No one wants to feel as if you are bamboozling them. Brands need to be clear. If you are fake, people will eventually find out and your brand will fail.
- Lays Anal Leakage
Lays potato chips have been one of the top brands for several years. However, the sales have gone down over the years as other brands have emerged. Granted, they still have a top place in chip sales, but perhaps the warning label has played a part in their decline. I mean would you want to consume something that states “Lays Lights & Pringles Light Potato chips contain olestra, a fat substitute that leaches vitamin D from our body & can cause diarrhea, bloating, and anal leakage.”
The Lesson: Where you may be required to put the risks on your product, do so with a bit of tactics. Wording is everything. If you botch things this badly, you might be better off hiring brand designers.
- Washington Redskins
Although the Washington football franchise has stuck to defending its branding, there have been complications in the overall brand. The U.S. patent office has refused a number of patients from the Washington Redskins as being derogatory to Native Americans. The Atlanta Braves had the same issue a few years back and had to revamp their branding to take out the tomahawk from its branding.
The lesson: Avoid using any branding which will stereotype a particular demographic. As the taste and the offensive content of demographics consistently change, it is best to market without the use of specific demographic elements.
- Pudgy Pepsi
When Pepsi Max introduced the brand, one of the marketing and branding techniques was in a series of illustrations. Unfortunately, one of the illustrations was of an obese man with the Pepsi Max can. The effect was adverse to the “more energy” that the brand boasted.
The lesson: Make your branding correspond with your product.