Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

New Coke and Brand Failures

with one comment

ABC News kindly pointed out that today is the 25th birthday of New Coke, one of the biggest brand failures of all time. To mark this occasion, I wanted to share a few other big brand failures of interest.

Crystal Pepsi: In 1992 Pepsi launched a clear-coloured cola called Crystal Pepsi. This was the same time that bottled water was gaining popularity and Pepsi wanted to capitalize on the market desire for ‘purity’. This brand was taken off the market within a year. Sometimes when there is a gap in the market, it is because there is simply no demand for it.

Virgin Cola: Virgin has enjoyed a lot of success through brand extensions, but the move into cola was a flop for Richard Branson and company. The Virgin brand was about irreverence, which was compelling in categories where the big guys were complacent. The rivalry between Coke and Pepsi made sure this category was competitive so Virgin wasn’t able to offer anything unique, giving consumer no compelling reason to try the new product.

Harley Davidson Perfume: Harley Davidson is able to command brand loyalty that most of us can only dream of. What other brand logos do you find tattooed onto people? But their attempt to move into perfume in the ‘90s was a mistake – a classic example of a brand extension in a category where there is clearly no fit with the core brand.

KFC in Hong Kong: The literal translation of the famous KFC tag line, ‘Finger Licking Good’, into Chinese, is ‘Eat Your Fingers Off’. I don’t think I need to explain why this one didn’t work!

Kodak: Kodak had for decades been the leader in photography. Whether you think they got complacent with the rise of digital or they didn’t pursue it for fear of cannibalizing their sales, the result was that they missed the boat. Great brands need to constantly innovate to meet evolving consumer needs and stay relevant or risk being left behind.

What do you think? Any other big brand failures come to mind?


Written by benwisebranding

April 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

One Response

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  1. A few brand faux pas come to mind, both past and present. Mercedes Benz weakened their prestige brand status when they came out with a low cost sedan (C class?) back in the late 80’s.

    Bayer continues to put their name on both aspirin and insecticides. Radio Shack refuses to get current and has now committed untold sums of money to branding “The Shack.”

    I would have to say, from personal experience, the Crystal Pepsi was right up there at the top.


    April 25, 2010 at 12:06 am

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