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Even Marketers Make Mistakes


9 min read

While planning a marketing campaign or launching a new product, you need to know whom you’re serving and all about them! Start with their age, gender, income level, education, etc., and then move to the more specific characteristics, like hobbies, purchase habits, or values. All these pieces of information will determine the direction of your target marketing. And if you have a rocky start here, everything else will fall apart too!

Even reputable companies have a history of ups and downs, and this article will disclose the fresh marketing failure cases for you not to make the same mistakes. But before it, consider the fact that half of contemporary online campaigns flop to reach their target audience, where the most challenging business spheres include travel, entertainment, and retail. Another shocking trend comes from modern companies’ inability to create more personalized campaigns and attain client base segmentation. Overall, as you see, marketing isn’t so easily intuitive as you may suppose, so let’s learn how to succeed in it through the list of cases what not to do.

Failure Types of Recent Times

Type #1: The Wrong Message — Mondelez

As big business tycoons in the market have no right to linger for survival’s sake, sometimes they overthink their new marketing tactics and get into trouble all of a sudden. One of such is Mondelez who had long held up very well in terms of customer engagement but recently blew with its ‘humaning’ approach.

Short storyline: From the looks of things, the company’s marketing strategists were attempting to emphasize their client-focused attitude, which would be awesome under the condition the message was conveyed correctly. Instead, Mondelez’s motto “humaning is marketing made right for snacking made right” became the object of mockery. The critics were asking the question of which audience the brand was targeted to before if they declared their service to humans right now — robots? So, a good start quickly turned into a total marketing collapse.

Morale to learn: Even if your aim is high and generous, think it through how it should be properly transmitted to the public. Otherwise, the recipients of your message can read it in a different way, which will not always bear a positive connotation.

However, despite the fierce opposition of ‘humaning,’ Mondelez continues to back up its customer-centered philosophy with actions. It started in 2019 with the Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Donate Your Words campaign to fight elderly loneliness in the UK. Next came the establishment of the #ProudParent platform, in June 2020, done for raising the mutual belonging between families all over the world and making the world a better place. And one of the freshest displays of ‘humaning’ is the Cocoa Life project that reveals the harsh reality of cocoa farmer’s life and pursues the aim of questioning climate change, poverty, child labor, and other related global issues. In this light, the company is doing a great job, and the only thing left is to be more careful with the message delivery.

Type #2: Business Ahead of Human Factor — Amazon

In contrast to the previous case, this type of marketing strike revolves around the company’s immense concern over income generation and business goals rather than humanism. The weight of the human factor is much undersold there: not so much attention is paid to the employees, and nothing client-centered is observed in marketing. Here we’re speaking about Amazon.

Short storyline: Amazon’s popularity has significantly accelerated with the pandemic, but who knows the price the company has paid for its smooth eCommerce business. According to the report dated by October 2020, close to 20,000 Covid ill cases were detected among the US Amazon workers. This appalling figure is the obvious result of Jeff Bezos’ resolve to keep warehouses open, and now he’s predicted to be the world’s first trillionaire by 2026. The intrusion of US activists and health care officials put pressure on the founder’s shoulders, but he came out clean by enacting stricter cleaning procedures at work as well as medical insurance and paid days off for the quarantined employees.

Morale to learn: Business orientation is great till the moment it put the workers through the wringer. In this case, it truly becomes a threat to public well-being. That’s why Bezos is to urgently reconsider his marketing approach so that to save the company’s reputation and Amazon customers’ loyalty.

Type #3: Wrong Perception of Market Needs — Singapore Airlines

Another unpleasant situation transpires when the business lags behind the target market’s needs. It’s pitiful as it doesn’t usually coincide with the company’s indifference to its clients but rather indicates its failure to keep pace with the fast changes in their preferences. Not to let your product become obsolete, always be in touch with your customers!

Short storyline: In September 2020, Singapore Airlines made a serious flop by advertising its ‘flights to nowhere’ marketing campaign. Though the initial plan was to numb the pain of travelers, suffering from lack of mobility and free movement, it provoked nationwide critical acclaim in terms of jet fuel waste and eco-irresponsibility. The supporters of the eco-friendly mindset quickly joined the row of critics, which pushed the company to reshape its marketing strategy. In response, they suggested the ecological and no less interesting suggestions to their loyal clients: dine-in in the A380 jumbo, behind-the-scenes tour, and food catering similar to the in-flight dining experience.

Morale to learn: This case cannot be called a total bust as Singapore Airlines has found a quick fix. Sometimes you gotta throw your first pancake! Meantime, though the further suggestions clinked with the market, they were quite costly for the majority. For instance, the dine-in option in the jet could reach SG$600 per meal, while the catering through SIA@Home was to compete with the similar price delivery businesses. Not for everyone, right?

Type #4: Wrong Market At Wrong Time

As this type of marketing failure seems the most widespread one, we’ve come up with 3 prominent fiasco cases here. You’ll be probably surprised when looking at the brand names, but no one is perfect and safe from error, especially when making poor research on customers’ needs and cultural specifics. Not to go down again, read the cases’ summaries carefully!

Starbucks in Australia

Short storyline: Having occupied 28 000 locations and 76 markets, Starbucks painfully screwed in Australia. The majority of Americans don’t admire the taste of ‘clean’ coffee and, that’s why prefer sugar- or milk-filled drinks. Moreover, for the average American consumer, coffee is a commodity, an on-the-go caffeine product for cheering up and quick awakening. In contrast, the Australians are translating the Italian chat&drink culture towards coffee consumption. They’re more inclined to gather in the cozy and friendly small cafe over coffee and spend some free time for interaction. That was the primary reason why Gloria Jeans’ Coffee network with its “building a unified family” and “a little bit of ourselves in every cup we serve” appeared a hit in Australia, compared to Starbucks. The brand quickly conquered the African continent and recently launched the $3M marketing campaign to raise its market awareness.

Morale to learn: Though Starbucks agreed on leaving its coffee shops in the biggest Australian cities for tourists, this example conveys a clear message that a simple transfer of business mission from one to another geo is the potential disaster bomb.

McDonald’s & Burger King in Vietnam

Short storyline: It’s evident that American fast-food chains don’t resonate with the Vietnamese target market. In 2012, Burger King stepped into the country’s market with the ambitious plan to grow from 13 to 60 stores in the forthcoming 4 years, but this goal wasn’t achieved either. The same happened to McDonald’s in 2014, which was aimed at opening 100 stores within 10 years, but could only start with 17 without any further extension. Why so? Lack of cultural consideration. In comparison with Americans, Vietnamese consumers, though they spend a lot of money on food, cherish the idea of dish sharing with their close ones and have a big love for chicken. That’s why they usually give preference to Italian food or local street vendors, while McDonald’s and Burger King’s menus don’t seem exciting to them at all. The number of restaurants also matters here as their scarcity has inevitably led to the long queue in the cashouts, which ruins the very concept of fast-food delivery. By and large, the visits to Burger King and McDonald’s dropped 31% till 2018, whereas the local food kiosks continued to flourish.

Morale to learn: Even though the American fast-food giants have started to bring in some new Vietnam-spiced menu items, such as grilled pork rice with egg or fresh rice combo, these small pieces of cultural adjustment aren’t sufficient to compete with the local vendors that are way cheaper, tastier, and quicker in cooking.

7-Eleven in Indonesia

Short storyline: 7-Eleven’s entrance to the Indonesian marketplace began in 2009 and totally ceased its operation in 2017. Are you interested in the reasoning behind it? The answer won’t astonish you — the wrong market at the wrong time. The economic slowdown of 2014 and the accompanying 2015’s ban on alcohol couldn’t help but alter the situation drastically. Before this, the international chain of convenience stores was quite popular among the Indonesian youth, who were lured by the fresh local food and alcoholic beverages in addition to the usual line of 7-Eleven items. However, ‘popular’ isn’t a synonym for ‘lucrative’ or ‘profitable.’ The Uni students could spend a couple of hours there with only 1 drink bought. So, very soon, 7-Eleven faced the serious issue of income losses and was to reduce the number of its Indonesian spots. As it didn’t work out, the company was to close all the remaining stores in 2017.

Morale to learn: Being limited to the narrow target audience turns out a risky decision under the slightest market fluctuations. Think twice beforehand!

Type #5: Launching the Wrong Product — Tesco

The last but not the least type of marketing flops connected with the low account of the target audience is choosing the wrong product/service. By coincidence, the sphere of retail suffers the most from it, and the UK has been mistaken in it several times while appealing to the US market. First, the story happened with Sainsbury’s (2004) and Marks&Spenser (2006), and then with the well-known stores’ network Tesco.

Short storyline: The British-based grocery store line Tesco totally disappeared from the US market in 2013, after a series of store reduction measures. Why did the biggest English retailer sell all 208 stores? The wrong product! Tesco was doing well in the UK setting because of the varied line of goods at a moderate price, but that wasn’t sufficient for the US. Particularly, while the Englishmen preferred daily shopping for grabbing food and going home, Americans showed the tendency to shop in bulk weekly. Moreover, compared to the UK consumers, who were fond of ready-to-go meals, the US grocery store visitors ordered takeout for cooking themselves. And one more cultural distinction was in American’s desire to touch the products before buying, which wasn’t critical to the British at all. And as Tesco wrapped a lot of its vegetables and fruits in cellophane, it withdrew some potential American customers, for whom such an issue was important. All in all, the Great Recession and the consecutive high unemployment in the west of the country (all Tesco stores were located there) also aggravated the situation and placed a favorable light on its competitor, Fresh&Easy.

Morale to learn: Though the company relied on the prior research of Americans’ grocery habits, it was conducted on the surface level with only 40 investigators in the sampling. The narrowness of the geo-target finally created another hurdle, while diversification would be the smarter approach.

And how not to flop like these guys?

Guiding you through the jungle of these fresh examples, we’re coming to the final stretch! We truly believe that the discussion of the companies’ failures is one of the best ways to find the right path in their uncountable variety. Which case has made your jaw wide open and taught you a good lesson? Hope there are a few of them, but this collection is all about one idea: you need to be extremely attentive to your target audience each time you make a business decision. Always start with the grounded market research and never underestimate the importance of your clients’ product perception. And if you have no time for that, contact the DashDevs team to help you with professional advice for your project!

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