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6 marketing errors your business can learn from




Gillette’s close shave

Although Gillette is a well-known brand, the debut of the Vector razor in India was one of the most disastrous marketing operations in India. This is where they went astray. They did some market research before launching Vector and discovered that Indian males had thicker and longer hair than Americans. Keeping this in mind, they included a plastic component that could slide down to unclog the blade while shaving.

The biggest blunder made by Gillette was not conducting the research in India. They conducted this research at MIT with Indian students. As a result, they overlooked India’s most serious problem: shaving without access to running water. In India, it is therefore impossible to unclog the Vector razor during shaving. This finally resulted in its failure to sell this particular razor in India, but rebounded by reworking the product for India’s intricacies.

Cheap isn’t always better

A middle-class Indian family had only three alternatives when it came to purchasing a new car: Maruti 800, Alto, or WagonR. Tata aimed to bring the joy of owning a four-wheeler to every family, and thus created the cheapest car, the NANO, which costed only INR 1 lakh.

When Ratan Tata’s Tata Nano was first introduced, it was dubbed “the cheapest car” and marketed as such. However, the label “cheap” kept it from thriving. It became one of India’s most infamous botched marketing initiatives. It’s an excellent example of well-known products failing in India and demonstrating that not all publicity is good publicity.

Hoover’s $50 Million Flight of Fancy

It is normal practise to make an offer on things that are outdated, no longer in use, or collecting dust in warehouses. In 1992, Hoover, an American-based company that supplied washing machines and vacuum cleaners, launched a marketing campaign offering free travel tickets to Europe with any purchase of $100 or more.

The company had not anticipated such a large response, but they were flooded with orders from all around the world. This resulted in a massive $50 million loss. This demonstrates that if you want to entice a customer with an offer or a discount, keep it realistic. This was one of the most significant failures in marketing history.

McDonald’s Free Treat Offer Failure

McDonald’s sponsored free burgers, snacks, and soft drinks for every medal the United States won at the 1984 Olympics. For instance, consumers would receive a Big Mac if the US team won gold in that event, received french fries if the team won silver, and a free soft drink if the team won bronze. “When the United States wins, you win,” was the motto.

They were unaware, however, that two of the US’s main competitors in the Olympics, Germany, and Russia, as well as other communist countries, were not competing. As a result, the United States won 174 medals, including 83 gold. This was McDonald’s most infamous marketing blunder, and serves up a lot of food for thought for marketing mavens.

KFC underestimates demand

It began fairly innocuously; KFC promoted a free voucher for a two-piece chicken meal with two separate sides and a biscuit to viewers of Oprah’s show. The only requirement was that consumers obtain the discount from the Oprah website.

KFC hadn’t done any research before the promotion, and didn’t realise the scale of their blunder. 10.5 million coupons were downloaded, resulting in KFC giving away almost $42 million of free food, but still failing to deliver what they had offered. They were then left with no other choice but to apologize to Oprah and their customers. Lesson learnt: always conduct thorough market research before launching any marketing campaign.

Panasonic’s very un-PC error

Coming up with product names is indeed difficult, but it’s hard to think that no one caught this error before it went public. Panasonic, a well-known electronics company, released a new PC dubbed “Woody”.  

To make matters worse, they didn’t realise they’d made a mistake and launched an updated version called (wait for it) “Touch Woody” to emphasise the PC’s touch screen functionality. It gets better still; the company also launched an automated online support capability named (no exaggeration) “Internet Pecker”.

This is one of the most prominent naming mistakes ever made by a company, and we can’t help but believe that this was perpetrated by an intent looking to take his revenge on the company. 


Even after these failed marketing campaigns, these brands are doing well because they have learned from their mistakes. Don’t repeat your mistake, learn from them and keep improving. Remember, every failure is a door to a new opportunity or idea. And most times fear of failure stops us from creating anything new. So, it is advised to do thorough market research and not skip over this step as most of these errors could have been avoided with a couple more hours of research or meetings put behind the campaigns.