Why Did They Do That? 10 Marketing Mistakes

As an advertising agency, we are continually inspired by campaigns created by other agencies. As we know, with good comes the bad. Brands are constantly on the look out for bold and exciting ideas that will turn heads, and in some cases, these ideas are so out there that they can miss the mark completely.

It’s only natural that some ideas aren’t as well received as others, but nevertheless; they were creative, bold, and garnered attention. Take a look at adHOME’s round up of marketing mistakes:

The New Coke

New Coke took a successful product that was celebrated 100 years and replaced it with a new unproven formula. New Coke was an inadvertent admission that its product was tired and old and needed to be replaced. Coca-Cola executives soon learned from their marketing mistake and brought back the old formula.

Ford Edsel

One of the biggest problems with the Edsel was that it was competing against itself, matching the retail value on many of the cars in Ford’s established Mercury line without bringing anything new to the table. Another issue was that the Edsel was a jumble of both Ford and Mercury parts with zero quality control since there was no separate Edsel manufacturing facility. This lead to significant mechanical issues. The Edsel cost Ford $400 million dollars and it was cancelled within three years.

ford edsel

Honda Asimo

Honda’s Asimo is a 4-foot tall, 120 pound robot capable of a wide range of movements. It was intended to be a robot butler except that it is still riddled with kinks and very clumsy. There is still no firm date for its public release.

Hond asimo

Circuit City DIVX

Circuit City’s DIVX or Digital Video Express was a competitor to the DVD when the home video movement advanced from VHS in the late 90’s.

The DIVX format was not unlike DVD, except you had to buy the disc for around four dollars and it would only be playable for 48 hours after the first watch. From there, you had to purchase additional play time. The DIVX player also used your phone line, which, at the time, was the only way you could use the Internet. Viewers found them too complicated to understand and chose to support DVDs, a format that would allow you to simply buy the title and watch it as many times as you wanted.

Circuit City lost more than $114 million in the venture and went out of business in 2009.


Ayds Diet Candy

After a strong sales showing in the appetite suppressant market during the 70’s, the Ayds brand had the unfortunate circumstance of trying to find an audience right around the time AIDS was scaring people across the world. Considering that AIDS was at the time, a disease that withered its victims away to nothing, the fact that Ayds was sold as a weight loss product created a double whammy for the marketing campaign, if you will. Sometimes marketing disasters are man-made. For this one, fate seemed to play a significant role.


Casa Sanchez Tattoos

Marketing experts agree that the San Francisco eatery Casa Sanchez would have lost millions of dollars had they not capped off the craziness surrounding their 1999 tattoos promotion. According to the campaign, if a customer got a tattoo of the Casa Sanchez logo, they could eat at any of the restaurants for free for the rest of their lives. Co-owner Martha Sanchez didn’t expect there to be a huge response, but in an April 1st, 2010, Wall Street Journal article, she revealed that they quickly had to cap the number at 50.

sanchez tattoo

Calvin Klein’s Sex Sells Campaign (to Minors)

Sometimes a marketing failure doesn’t exactly equate with a financial failure. Calvin Klein proved this twice through his unofficially titled “sex sells” campaign. The first occurrence was in 1995 when Klein placed teenage boys and girls in sleazy recreational rooms and photographed them in suggestive poses wearing next to nothing. Parents and parents groups hated it, but teens loved it. Klein tried it again in 1999 with an even younger group.  Somehow they thought it would be a good idea to stick them in underwear and apply the black and white concept of his usual ads. People hated it, and the ads were pulled in 24 hours.

calvin Klein

The Beatles Yesterday and Today “Butcher” Album

The Beatles 1966 “Yesterday and Today” original album cover thrust the world’s favorite band into a sick and twisted light that even member George Harrison hated. The idea, known as “the Butcher Cover,” featured a dismembered baby doll with meat cuts strewn all over the place. It was the Beatles’ worst selling album, even after the cover was reissued shortly thereafter.


Sealed copies of the original album can sell for as much as $30,000.


O.M.G.I.G.P. Vomit Girl from Microsoft

Dean Cain starred in the 2009 Microsoft ad campaign, known as the “Oh my God, I’m gonna puke” commercial that announced the arrival of Internet Explorer 8. While we do have to give the company some props for humor, that is negated by the fact they lost sight of their target audience: virtually every computer user in the world. The ad features a wife asking to use her husband’s laptop when he’s through. What she sees launches her into a vomiting frenzy.

I'm going to puke

Farewell to the King…Burger King That Is

The folks at Burger King tried to make a star out of the Burger King character for years starting in 2003, and all they ever got was that same consensus reaction: creepy. Of course, they didn’t set a good precedent with the King on their initial commercial. Who wants to wake up in bed next to a guy with a head the size of the Elephant Man’s? The campaign was officially ended in August, 2011.

Burger King