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Out with the old and in with the ‘New Coke’

Although it was a long time ago, Coca-Cola’s ‘New Coke’ fail is still one of the most talked about mistakes in the marketing industry.

It was leaked in 1985 that Coca-Cola was working on a new variation of the well- loved product in order to maintain prime position over close rival ‘Pepsi’. There was uproar! People were stockpiling the old stuff in fear that the new drink just wouldn’t compare. When ‘New Coke’ launched in April 1985 it crashed and burned. Protest groups formed and were demanding that the old product was brought back to American supermarket shelves. It became clear that Coca-Cola just hadn’t done their research and they forgot to ask the soft drink lovers what exactly it was that they wanted.

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After holding the same recipe for 99 years Coca-Cola believed it was time to re-energise their brand. After less than 3 months in stores, Coca-Cola listened to the people and pulled ‘New coke’ off the shelves and replaced it with the original product. In an interview, company President Donald R. Keough said “we did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola”. The phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” springs to mind!

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What Went Wrong?

In my most recent blog entry I decided to talk about some of the marketing mistakes made by internationally recognised brands, so today I have decided to look reasons why this can happen.

Trying to target an audience segment that is too broad can heavily influence the strength of the message that the brand is trying to portray. It can be damaging for a company to give customers irrelevant promotional materials.

With most promotional messages, brands only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression before they lose the interest of the audience. If it is not inspiring, lacks engagement or isn’t well planned it is unlikely it will be successful.

Making bad assumptions can also cause globally recognised brands to make marketing mistakes. Marketers can jump to conclusions and assume that the audience has a prior understanding when actually they do not.

Copying the success of others does not guarantee it will be successful for everyone. Just because it was effective for a competitor does not mean it will work out the same for opposing businesses.

Forgetting to follow up marketing messages can also lead to the failure of campaigns. One marketer, Chris Fill suggests that for a successful message should be portrayed through ‘differentiating’, ‘reinforcing’, ‘informing’ and ‘persuading’. If the message is not followed up with reinforcement, it will not be as powerful to the consumer.

These are many, many more causes of ineffective marketing, but these are just some of the reasons why powerful brands can get it wrong. 

Cross Cultural Marketing Catastrophes

It isn’t everyday you see internationally recognised brands making fatal errors when it comes to marketing- but when they do, boy do they know it! Since finding out from ‘The Guardian’ that we are exposed to 3,500 marketing messages daily, I developed a keen interest in finding out more about these, in particular the ones that weren’t so successful…

The biggest blunders seem to occur when brands try and take their messages internationally, here’s a few made by companies who clearly hadn’t done their research in foreign markets:

  • UK food manufacturer ‘Sharwoods’ spent £6 million on the launch campaign of their ‘Bundh’ sauce range. ‘Sharwoods’ later received many letters and calls from Punjabi speakers letting them know that the word ‘Bundh’ sounds like the Punjabi word for “arse”.
  • In Mexico, ‘Parker Pen’ marketed their ballpoint pen with what the thought was “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, ‘Parker Pen’ mistakenly translated embarrass to Spanish word “embarazar”. The advertising campaign read “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”- not ideal!
  • ‘Schweppes’ Tonic Water didn’t go down so well in Italy, only to realise that the name translated to “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
  • The Swedish furniture giant IKEA chose the name “FARTFULL” for one of their desks. It’s safe to say this wasn’t Ikea’s best seller!
  • In China, ‘Coca-Cola’ was branded “Ke-kou-ke-la”. It was only after they had spent a lot of money on printing that they discovered the phrase translated to “female horse stuffed with wax” or “bit the wax tadpole” depending on the dialect. ‘Coca-Cola’ is now known as “Ko-kou-ko-le” which translates to “happiness in the mouth”… Much more appropriate!
  • The ‘Pepsi’ slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” wasn’t so successful in Taiwan after finding out it translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”!
  • In Brazil, ‘Ford’ released their Pinto model and were very surprised by the customers lack of interest. “Pinto” in Brazilian slang means “tiny male genitals”. After changing the name to “Corcel”, meaning “horse” the product became much more successful.