Not all failures in brand launch strategy are equal. Some flops fly under the radar barely causing a ripple, others make headlines. And some end up in the Museum of Failure.
Yes, there is such a thing as the Museum of Failure. The touring exhibition has more than 150 failed products and services, from a horror movie-esque beauty mask that targets wrinkles with electricity (that never received FDA approval) to a line of Bic pens marketed exclusively to women. Big brands like Apple, Google, Amazon and Coca-Cola are not immune.
Failure may well be the stepping stone towards greatness, all part of the process and other inspiring sentiments, but if you can learn from other people’s marketing mistakes instead of your own – all the better.
Here are four brand launch strategy lessons learned thanks to the experimentation of others.
First up, the Bic pens.
Back in 2011, Bic released a line of pens in different shades aimed specifically at women. Bic Cristal for Her boasted personality-poppin’ colors with a slimmer design to fit women’s dainty hands.
The outrage and ridicule were immediate, from commentary in mainstream media to thousands of sarcastic reviews on Amazon. As Ellen DeGeneres said on her show, summing up the general reaction: "Can you believe this? We've been using man pens all these years."
The pens were pulled.
Marketing teams don’t always have a say in new product development, but they can control the messaging. Pink pens are fine. Gendered language hinging on stereotypes that run the risk of alienating your intended audience? Not so much.
That’s why audience research is so important. And it has to include talking with real people. At Kuno Creative, for instance, our brand journalists interview your customers as part of the buyer persona research process.
Had Bic better understood their intended audience – by, you know, talking to them – they may have been better able to bridge the disconnect between their gendered product and what women actually want in a pen before launch.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
CNN+, a new streaming service by Warner Bros. Discovery, lasted less than a month after it launched in 2022.
Business experts point to a few factors that contributed to the service failure, such as:
The abrupt closure of CNN+ cost the company millions and numerous employees their jobs.
We’re not saying there was an easy fix to save CNN+. However, a strong brand launch strategy that has buy-in from all stakeholders and gets the timing right goes a long way towards success.
For instance, executive leaders at WarnerMedia and Discovery (two companies that merged to form Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022) had very different opinions about the streaming service. In fact, Discovery’s global head of streaming announced they would be suspending marketing of CNN+ just hours before the new WBD stock went live on the market.
A strong brand strategy helps develop a strong identity, build alignment between departments and ensure the timing of a launch is right.
Credit: Getty Images
When Elon Musk bought Twitter for an eye-watering $44 million in October 2022, it was clear updates to the social media platform would be coming. What caught many by surprise, though, was the rapid-fire pace of the changes that reinvented the company as a whole.
In quick succession, Musk:
By themselves, none of these actions are radical. Just the year before, for instance, Facebook changed its name to Meta.
In the case of Twitter-turned-X, the rollout of the rebrand left users confused and distrusting the brand. Since last fall, according to reports, the platform’s web traffic is down 14% and six out of ten adults who previously used the platform say they have taken a break.
A company rebrand often goes hand-in-hand with a shift in overall company strategy and culture, so the timing at X wasn’t out of left field. The rollout, however, was haphazard.
A rebrand should be coordinated and uniform across the company. In the case of X, for instance, there was a near total lack of communication to users and partners alike. Some parts of the website said X, while mentions of tweets and Twitter still prevailed in other areas. The URL of the site still says Twitter, up to this day. The brand recognition tied to the word “tweeting” was lost, with nothing to replace it.
A rebrand should have:
Changing everything erratically or all at once can be risky business, and as such requires even more strategic forethought to be successful.
There are countless examples of marketing failures that could have been avoided by having another pair of eyes on the branding.
Drake University, for example, launched a recruitment campaign with a new “D+” logo, overlooking the negative connotations of the grade. During Hurricane Harvey, Airbnb promoted floating homes with marketing emails encouraging readers to “stay above water” which was met with accusations of insensitivity. An astounding number of campaigns with racist overtones go live before being pulled with a public apology.
Working with a trusted team of brand strategists and marketing experts can help ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
In particular, pay attention to:
Investing in a thorough planning and review process can help mitigate the risk of brand harm to an organization’s reputation and require later backtracking. Working with a full-service marketing agency like Kuno means working with a team of specialists in all areas including content, design, development, SEO, paid media and more to execute strategies that move you forward in the best possible ways.
Whether you’re launching a new product, a new campaign or rebranding completely, Kuno Creative is here to help you with the right brand strategy. Schedule a consultation to start the conversation today.