While it’s true that almost all businesses aspire to make it big and turn into mega brands at some stage, merely becoming a huge brand doesn’t guarantee success. Even iconic brands that other emerging entrepreneurs idolize often commit major blunders. While marketing goof-ups are part and parcel of all marketing initiatives, product launch failures have the potential of turning a product or service into a high-profile misstep.
If you’re someone who’s involved in product launches and the marketing aspect of such launches, this blog can e super helpful for you. So, here are the 5 worst product launch failures of all time.
1. EA’s Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1’s failure can be purely attributed to its poor marketing strategy. The game, set in World War I, used the hashtag “#justWWIthings” for promotion. However, the marketing campaign received much backlash after posting just two pictures on Twitter.
One of the images, which used the GIF of a soldier getting burned by a flamethrower, used the caption “When you’re too hot for the club.”. EA Sports then tweeted the GIF with the text “Weekend goals. #justWWIthings.”. The post led to a lot of outrage not only on Twitter but on other social media platforms too.
Most people lamented the insensitivity shown by the two posts toward people who had died in the war. Following this, EA promptly removed the posts and apologized for the same but the damage was long done. The campaign not only ruined the launch but also turned away many people who could have otherwise been potential customers.
2. Walmart’s Juneteenth-Themed Ice Cream
Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the US that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Americans. In 2022, major brands like Netflix, Nike, and Target announced a day off for their employees to mark this historical day. Other brands hosted speakers from all around the world to celebrate diversity and inclusion.
But Walmart adopted a rather weird approach to observe this day. Walmart launched a Juneteenth-themed ice cream of swirled red velvet and cheesecake flavors under its private label brand Great Value. This was seen as an attempt by a white-owned brand to treat the day as another commercialized opportunity and sparked instant outrage. As expected, Walmart soon apologized and pulled the ice cream from its shelves.
Streaming services tend to generate a lot of buzz. However, the industry is also full of potential ideas that could never make it big. Quibi was the most high-profile casualty in 2020 after it was launched with much fanfare merely six months before its co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman announced they were shuttering the mobile-centric streaming service.
The story wasn’t much different for CNN+ in 2022 when Discovery shut down the streaming platform merely a month after its $300 million launch. The reason behind the shutdown- low traction amongst viewers. Apparently, CNN+ fetched less than 10,000 daily viewers every day.
4. Ford’s Edsel
Automotive giant Ford spent a year aggressively marketing for the 1957 release of Edsel, which was named after Henry Ford’s son.
Edsel was supposed to be the “car of the future” and was made available on dealership lots on what Ford called the “E-Day”. But despite all the hype, the car was a commercial disaster for Ford. Customers found the car unnecessarily overpriced and somewhat ugly. However, their biggest disappointment stemmed from its not-so-futuristic design. As expected, Ford stopped the car’s production merely two years after launching it, losing almost $350 million.
5. RJ Reynolds’ Premier Smokeless Cigarettes
In 1988, RJ Reynolds, the second-largest US American tobacco company started promoting its smokeless tobacco cigarettes that were intended to make smoking safe.
However, smokers missed the familiar elements associated with smoking i.e., the smoke, the burning, and the customary flicks. The widely reported unpleasant chemical taste led to more criticism, with many equating the taste to that of burning plastic. The company pulled the cigarettes out of the market within a year but by then they had already invested about $1 billion into it.
And those are some of the worst product launch failures in history. Before launching a product, you must carefully plan your strategy. If you’re addressing a sensitive issue, take a moment and think if you’ll be offending people by adding any kind of humor to it. If at all you need to add humor, consider what kind of humor you should go for. Asking yourself these questions will at least ensure that your marketing campaign doesn’t rub off people the wrong way.
We’ll be back next week with more awesome videos. Until then, stay tuned!