The best intentions can go awry in any circumstances. We’ve all heard of brands who made serious mistakes. No one wants to be guilty of cultural branding faux pas. Learn from the whoops moments of others with these distinct examples of when branding didn’t work as expected.
Colgate’s brand identity is strongly tied to dental health, but in the 1980s it tried to branch away from its hygienic products. Colgate Kitchen Entrees was a line of frozen food products. The company though it was a natural leap from teeth to food, but the company failed to make a connection with customers. The result was a steep decline in profits. Lesson: Know how your customers perceive your brand. If you’re branching out your services, conduct lots of research first and run a targeted re-branding campaign to educate your client base.
When this internal video came out during the trial of five Insys executives, people were outraged and rightly so. It was intended to motivate its sales team, but given our current opioid crisis, we’d say it was in poor taste. Insys was charged with creating a kickback scheme for physicians prescribing its drug. Lesson: Even internal messaging must adhere to brand values because nothing is truly “for employees only.”
Japan faced a catastrophic disaster with the earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Naturally, Fukushima Industries Corp.—maker of industrial refrigerators and freezers wanted to put some distance between their brand and the accident. But a name like “Fukuppy” was probably not the answer. Lesson: Double and triple check your branding names, especially when expanding to global markets.
Sometimes brands become linked to a particular visual. In Tropicana’s case, dropping the orange with a straw sticking into it caused sales to dive 20 percent. The company was trying to look more current but failed to recognize the visual brand equity it had built. PepsiCo lost $130 million before reversing the packaging redesign. Lesson: Again, know what your consumers associate with your brand. Sometimes a rebrand isn’t necessary. Run trials to get feedback of your new brand assets.
Everything you publish online reflects your brand values. The American Red Cross is known for its disaster relief, but not “getting slizzered,” or promoting alcoholic beverages. Their response to an employee’s social media gaffe is a lesson in how to handle branding mistakes with grace. Lesson: Watch your messaging across all your brand assets. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Apologize. Take steps not to repeat it.