In the past, we’ve discussed how great marketing campaigns managed to pull languishing companies up by their bootstraps and get them back on the track to success. But unfortunately for some other businesses, the power of marketing is a two-way street: not only can it heal, it can hurt. Badly. Here are 3 businesses who were driven into the ground by their own disastrous marketing campaigns.
1. OK Soda
Ah, the ’90s. It was an era of flannel, plaid, and bleak, gritty cynicism — and soft drink giant Coca Cola noticed. Hoping to tap into the downbeat, disillusioned spirit of the famed “Generation X,” Coca Cola attempted to launch a product called OK Soda. OK Soda tried something novel: it took an entirely different approach to advertising than any other soda, or indeed any other product that existed before (or since). It advertised not sex, glamour, success, wealth, or fun — OK Soda advertised mediocrity and gloom. With the deliberately understated slogan, “It’s going to be OK,” OK Soda cans featured grey artwork depicting blank, unsmiling faces, and focused on pandering to a persona rather than actually offering anything particularly new or exciting. OK Soda bombed in test runs, and the product was pulled off the shelves a paltry two years after it emerged.
2. Ayds Weight-Loss Candy
Talk about tapping into a common fantasy — who wouldn’t want to lose weight from eating candy? Nobody, that’s who. Ayds had a massive captive audience sitting in its lap, and, at first, the sales to prove it. During the 1970s and continuing into the early 1980s, Ayds was taking off. It was marketed as a tasty appetite suppressant available in a wide variety of appealing flavors, like chocolate, butterscotch, and caramel. It seemed as though nothing could go wrong for Ayds… until the AIDS virus began to emerge in the mid-1980s. At a time when the disease was poorly understood, fear, suspicion, and homophobia spread through America like wildfire — and Ayds failed to respond. Something as simple as a name change could have saved them, but they stuck stubbornly by their old image, and by 1988, sales were at half of their previous levels. Ultimately, Ayds disappeared from store shelves.
3. Crystal Pepsi
Interestingly enough, the third marketing flop on our list is another soda from the early 1990s — maybe the cards for soda just weren’t right that year. In any case, Crystal Pepsi was debuted in 1992. Pepsi wanted to piggyback on recent successes by other companies (Ivory Soap, for example) at equating a clear appearance with “purity” and “health,” those two buzzwords so damaging to otherwise popular products like fast food and soda. What Pepsi failed to realize was the truth of the old maxim, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Consumers were put off by the bizarre watery appearance of the dark brown fluid they knew and loved, and Crystal Pepsi, proving a little too “pure,” was gone a mere year after it debuted.
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