No company is immune to marketing mistakes, especially considering marketing combines psychology, science, art, economics, and an assortment of factors in play – but that doesn’t mean mistakes are unavoidable.

Often times what may seem like an attempt at being edgy or trying to stay ahead of the proverbial curve turns out to be a disaster. It’s important to understand your market, know what matters to your customer base and for the love of God– make sure your marketing campaign can’t be misconstrued as something else.

New Coke

It’s 1985 and Coca-Cola just launched its new, sweeter formula ‘New Coke’. The reason was simple – to take back the younger crowd who preferred Pepsi because it was already sweeter than coke.

The reaction to Coke selling out to become more like Pepsi was swift, as fans of Coke didn’t like the fact that the company had basically destroyed something they loved so the company could make a few extra bucks. ‘New Coke’ was an absolute failure and the company reinstated ‘Coke Classic’ just 77 days later. This new product failure cost Coca-Cola close to $40 million and helped aid rival Pepsi Cola gain a market share advantage at the time.

The lesson here is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Kenneth Cole

Not too long ago, early 2011 actually, fashion behemoth Kenneth Cole sent out a tweet trying to promote their new spring collection. The tweet was sent out from Kenneth Cole himself, which makes this blunder all the more incredible.


At the time of this tweet there was a very violent uprising in Egypt, which ended the three-decade-long presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The tweet was not well received as negative feedback was immediate from the public. Kenneth Cole took the tweet down in response and proceeded to apologize to anyone offended.

The lesson here is humor is a powerful marketing tool, especially on social media, but it isn’t wise to make light of a serious situation where people are dying.

Sony Bets on Betamax

The ‘video format wars’ took place in the late 1970s, with VHS winning more than 70 percent of the initial market share over Betamax before eventually owning the entire market share.

Sony created a superior product in Betamax, which offered slightly better picture quality, but Sony miscalculated what was important to customers when it believed people would pay substantially more money for a Betamax player and less overall capabilities over the VCR and VHS tapes.

VCRs and VHS tapes were cheaper, could record for much longer, and the quality wasn’t that far apart from what Betamax offered.

The lesson here is to understand what the public wants, and whether they’re willing to pay more for a similar product from you before going all in and having it cost you dearly.

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