St“Learn from your mistakes” is a cliche for a reason. Messing up teaches you how to do better next time. This is true for many things, including marketing a business. What’s even better than failing yourself, though, is learning from the marketing mistakes of others. Here are some of the biggest marketing disasters that hit the huge companies Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Ford along with what marketing strategy you can learn from them.
In 1985, Coca-Cola announced that it would change the secret formula used to make their soda. Seemingly overnight, consumers began calling in protest. They liked Coke the way it was and didn’t understand why the company would ever want to change what was already a delicious drink. The new Coca-Cola was a flop. It was such a big marketing disaster that new products that fail are sometimes referred to as the “New Coke” of their market.
The Coca-Cola Company had to backtrack and rerelease their original soda. For a while, both products were sold under the names Coca-Cola Classic and New Coke or Coke II. Coca-Cola eventually quit selling the New Coke. Something we can learn from this is that if customers like your product, don’t change it. Don’t doubt your marketing strategy. If it’s working, no need to alter it and have it backfire.
For the 1984 Olympics, McDonald’s had a new marketing idea. For every medal the United States won, customers could get a free item. Gold medals meant a free Big Mac, silver guaranteed free fries, and bronze, a soft drink. At first glance, it seems like a good strategy. People are likely to buy other food when they come in to pick up just one item.
The problem was that the marketing team didn’t consider the sheer number of medals America could rake in. With the Soviet Union boycotting the games, the U.S. was more or less uncontested as a sports powerhouse. They ended up winning 174 medals that year, 83 of which were gold.
This was a disaster for McDonald’s. The company was giving away ridiculous amounts of food, sometimes in the form of an entire meal for one person. Some locations ran out of Big Macs. It just goes to show that a little research goes a long way when it comes to marketing in business. Think of all possible outcomes before starting a new marketing strategy.
In 1957, Ford Motor Company started selling a new brand of car called Edsel. It was meant to be the next everyman car for middle-class Americans. It ended up being a giant flop. Edsels quickly got a reputation as ugly cars that used too much gas and weren’t worth the money. Even though there were 18 different versions of the vehicle at launch and updates over the next couple of years, no one wanted the car.
There are a couple of lessons we can learn here. First, Edsel shows the importance of a focused marketing vision. Ford tried to make this car everything at once, which ended up making it attractive to no one. Another mistake to learn from is the attempt to salvage something that’s already failed. Once you’ve messed up, count your losses and move on. Trying to fix something that isn’t working will just cause you more problems.
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