Developing a brand isn’t easy; it takes strategy, research, understanding of competitors and consumers, not to mention a whole lot of creativity. So when startups fail to brand properly, it’s understandable but when well-developed brands make seemingly rookie mistakes, you’re more likely to ask, “What were they thinking?” The truth is there’s never been a brand that didn’t make mistakes, even with the help of the world’s most prestigious marketing firms, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from their mistakes. In today’s Simply CSOFT, we’ll take a look at some notable branding blunders and the lessons they teach.

Burger KingXerox

When Xerox came out with its flagship product in 1961 (and its even more popular successor in 1973), the photocopier, it revolutionized business. High quality copies of essential documents could be immediately produced and disseminated, cutting costs and making meetings much simpler. Xerox was so successful that the name of the company came to be synonymous with photocopying and photocopiers, regardless of the machine’s brand. Since then, Xerox has tried to erase “xerox” as a generic term from the collective conscience with little success, and their dwindling market share today is a far cry from their former glory.

The Lesson: If you manage to reach the very top of a market, you need to innovate and innovate fast.


Colgate was the first toothpaste to come in a collapsible tube and went on sale in 1896, having been sold in glass jars before that. Their name quickly became the most trusted in the oral hygiene business and they’ve since branched out into a variety of products like toothbrushes, mouthwashes, and breath freshening strips that dissolve in your mouth. Another of their attempts to branch out, however, was met with considerably less success: Colgate Frozen Dinners. The company’s logic – that people could eat their Colgate and then brush with Colgate – failed to sway customers who found the mixture of food with toothpaste less than appetizing.

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The Lesson: While product branching – think Microsoft’s Xbox or Amazon’s Kindle – can be great ways for a company to grow, the new product can’t be antithetical to or distasteful when placed next to your brand’s existing products.

Burger King

Burger King had been the United States’ second favorite fast food burger chain for a long time. Wanting to increase visibility and sales, they launched a new iteration of their mascot, “The King,” in 2004. The mascot, with its comically large head and frequently appearing in unexpected places, became a viral marketing sensation. Consumers really enjoyed the ads…but sales failed to increase. The ads’ creators eventually came to the realization that the slightly creepy “King” mascot generated plenty of interest but failed to make people hungry for fast food. Sadly, they didn’t realize it soon enough; Burger King slipped from second to third place and is now struggling to regain its former position.

The Lesson: The aim of advertizing is to ultimately push a product. While increased visibility is a great thing, it is of limited use if it’s not generating sales for the product.

When big brands brand badly, the market – particularly in today’s world of instant social media sharing – can be extremely unforgiving. It’s important for brands to reach out and include trusted outsiders in their branding efforts; they can help keep ill-advised ideas from being propelled by insulated groupthink. In any case, a bit of focus-grouping and market research can help steer your brand in the right direction.


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