Marketing A Small Business – What We Learn From Marketing Failures

POSTED: April 29, 2016 BY: CATEGORY:

When it comes to marketing a small business – it can be so easy to get it completely wrong.

Over time, even the biggest and most successful of corporations have had their fair share of marketing failures.

In this blog, here are some of the most notorious marketing campaigns gone wrong and what we can learn from these unsuccessful stunts.

Dominos – ‘Game Changer’ campaign

In 2013, the Australian chain of Dominos announced on social media that pizza fans should expect the ‘biggest announcement in 20 years’. This sent fans into a frenzy wondering what this revolutionary change could be. Sadly, for disappointed customers, Dominos’ radical revelation was nothing more but square pizzas and new toppings. Unfortunately, for Dominos, the only hype surrounding this announcement was negative feedback from disgruntled customers who thought that this marketing campaign over promised and under delivered.

So, what can we learn from Dominos’ error?

Under promise, over deliver

When it comes to providing a marketing campaigns, do not promise and build up the campaign if you are not providing something worth the hype. Doing this will only leave people with high expectations, leaving you with even more of a downfall when it all goes terribly wrong.

Coca Cola – New Coke

In the Spring of 1985, Coca Cola introduced ‘New Coke’ to replace the original formula of its flagship Coca-Cola. Coca Cola had been gradually losing ground in the market against competitor Pepsi and so to take action, Coca Cola attempted to reintroduce a new recipe and new flavour to reinvent the Coca Cola name and brand.

However, this backfired with the public being hostile towards this new introduction. When the subsequent reintroduction of the old Coca Cola Classic was brought back to the market, there was a significant gain in sales, highlighting the importance of not tampering with a well-established and successful brand.

What do we learn from this Coca-Cola error?

Coca-Cola introduced ‘New Coke’ to replace their original successful Classic Cola brand, in an attempt to reinvent the Coca Cola brand to overtake competitor Pepsi.

However, the strategy of removing the successful and well loved Classic Cola from the shelves and replacing it with an entirely different tasting product, was flawed.

In terms of marketing, it could be said that Coca Cola should have tried a new, unique and creative marketing campaign with the already successful coke to entice customers away from Pepsi.

Lesson learnt – do not mess with success.

Harley Davidson – Aftershave and Perfume

Harley Davidson is an American motorcycle manufacturer with a loyal brand following internationally.

In the 1990s, Harley Davidson decided to capitalise on the popularity of their iconic brand by producing a line of aftershave and perfume for men and women. However, this was an unsuccessful business venture for the much loved brand. Many believed that the company had lost focus and stretched the brand too far.

What can we learn from the unsuccessful Harley Davidson venture?

 Harley Davidson venturing into the perfume and aftershave industry was a clear example of how companies can stretch their brand too thin in order to capitalise on their success. It is important to look at what continues to work well, and focus on this. Creating a new and innovative marketing campaign for existing, booming products will most likely produce more revenue and profit than creating an entirely new product that has very little relation to the brand.

Lesson – don’t stretch a brand too thin.

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If you’re running or marketing a business on behalf of someone else, you know how important it is to stay relevant, especially when it comes to marketing.



#Jo Macdermott - turning good businesses into great businesses is all in a day’s work for marketing consultant, Jo Macdermott. Jo leads Next Marketing, a multiple award winning business, which she has grown from scratch. Jo is commercial, empathetic and always has her eye on the end game.