Book Review - Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Times by Matt Haig
Brands come and go at an ever-increasing pace these days. Mistakes are magnified and missteps in a local market carry over to the global market seemingly overnight. But can we learn from the mistakes of the past and better manage the present and future? There are definitely some lessons to be learned in the 2nd edition of Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Times by Matt Haig. It's worth reading if you own or manage a business, or if you're deciding whether to invest in a company. Just keep in mind that hindsight is 20/20, and pointing out mistakes after the fact is far easier than seeing them at the time.
Introduction: Why brands fail; Brand myths; Why focus on failure?
Classic Failures: New Coke; The Ford Edsel; Sony Betamax; McDonald's Arch Deluxe
Idea Failures: Kellogg's Cereal Mates; Sony's Godzilla; Persil Power; Pepsi; Earring Magic Ken; The Hot Wheels computer; Corfam; RJ Reynolds' smokeless cigarettes; La Femme; Radion; Clairol's 'Touch of Yoghurt' shampoo; Pepsi AM; Maxwell House ready-to-drink coffee; Campbell's Souper Combo; Thirsty Cat! and Thirsty Dog!;
Extension Failures: Harley Davidson perfume; Gerber Singles; Crest; Heinz All Natural Cleaning Vinegar; Miller; Virgin Cola; Bic underwear; Xerox Data Systems; Chiquita; Country Time Cider; Capital Radio restaurants; Smith and Wesson mountain bikes; Cosmopolitan yoghurt; Lynx barbershop; Colgate Kitchen Entrees; LifeSavers Soda; Pond's toothpaste; Frito-Lay Lemonade
PR Failures: Exxon; McDonald's - the McLibel trial; Perrier's benzene contamination; Pan Am; Snow Brand milk products; Rely tampons; Gerber's PR blunder; RJ Reynolds' Joe Camel campaign; Firestone tires; Farley's infant milk
Culture Failures: Kellogg's in India; Hallmark in France; Pepsi in Taiwan; Schweppes Tonic Water in Italy; Chevy Nova and others; Electrolux in the United States; Gerber in Africa; Coors in Spain; Frank Perdue's chicken in Spain; Clairol's Mist Stick in Germany; Parker Pens in Mexico; American Airlines in Mexico; Vicks in Germany; Kentucky Fried Chicken in Hong Kong; CBS Fender; Quaker Oats' Snapple
People Failures: Enron; Arthur Andersen; Ratner's Planet Hollywood; Fashion Cafe; Hear'Say; Guiltless Gourmet
Business Cycle Failures: Lehman Brothers; Marconi
Rebranding Failures: Consignia; Tommy Hilfiger; ONdigital to ITV Digital; Windscale to Sellafield; Payless Drug Store to Rite Aid Corporation; British Airways; MicroPro;
Internet And New Technology Failures: Pets.com; VoicePod; Excite@Home; WAP; Dell's Web PC; Intel's Pentium chip; IBM's Linux graffiti; boo.com; Google
Tired Brands: F. W. Woolworth; Oldsmobile; Pear's Soap; Ovaltine; Kodak; Polaroid; Rover; Moulinex; Nova magazine; Levi's; Kmart; The Cream nightclub; Yardley cosmetics
Brand Failures is a fun and informative read on many levels. Haig devotes a page or more to most of the brands listed above, outlining the story behind the rise and fall of the brand or company. At the end of many of the stories, he lists one or more lessons to be learned from the failure. For instance, we can take Harley Davidson's foray into the branded perfume market. HD has an incredible brand loyalty in the market. But that doesn't mean that anything with the HD logo will be embraced. At the point that HD tried to create a perfume and aftershave, they overstepped their customer mind set. They did the same thing with an HD-branded wine cooler. Those items didn't fit with the image that their customers had of themselves, and as such they were a flop. HD learned from that, and cut back dramatically on the branded merchandise. What did they learn? That you need to focus on your brand values, you can't alienate your core customers, "lovemarks" need to be handled with care, and that less is more in many cases.
In retrospect, it's easy to see where many of these brands went wrong. boo.com spent copious amounts of money yet didn't have a functional web site. Polaroid went under as they didn't stay relevant in a world of digital photography (same with Kodak). Pets.com found out that charging less for an item than it costs you to sell it doesn't work over the long run (imagine that!) On the flip side, some things that were successful broke some of the very rules that doomed other offerings. For instance, tablet computers failed repeatedly until Apple made the iPad a runaway success. No one knew they needed or wanted a Walkman until they actually hit the market. If digital photography hadn't taken off, Kodak would have been lauded for staying focused. At some point, you have to take your best guess as to what the future will hold. There's also a good chance you'll be wrong.
Even with the hindsight issue, Brand Failures is a good read with valuable information. Some of the lessons lie outside of the "what happens in the future" question, and apply to all situations. Just make sure you don't take every lesson as a rule, and be prepared to think about what might or might not happen if you follow a particular course of action.
Obtained From: Library