Following on from part 1 of ‘When Marketing Goes Wrong’ – we wanted to share more examples of brand fails. These are not to demoralise you or put you off taking a foray into marketing your business and brand but to learn from the lessons of others.

No matter how large or small your business is, it’s never been easier or more cost-effective to promote yourself to your prospects. All you need is time, knowledge and inclination.

Here are our second set of bloopers – proving that any brand can make a mistake and survive to tell the tale!


  • 1992 Hoover were offering 2 free flights to America in return for a spend on Hoover products of over £100 (flights cost £600)
  • The plan was to drum up recession sales pre-Christmas
  • The competition was massively oversubscribed – 200k entrants instead of the predicted 50k
  • Cost to Hoover £50 million


Lesson learned: Know your numbers! When creating a marketing promotion, it’s key that you make sure you can afford to fulfil demand – especially if your promotion is a loss leader. Calculate the cost and time implication if you are oversubscribed – what is the opportunity cost for this? Reputationally and financially, Hoover was destroyed by this promotion and were bought out soon afterwards.

Royal Mail

  • 2001 Royal Mail decided to rebrand the business to ‘Consignia’
  • £2 million was spent on the rebrand
  • The rationale was to position the Company as more than just a postal service
  • It bombed with the public who couldn’t pronounce or remember the name
  • 18-months later the brand was changed back to Royal Mail

Lesson learned: Understand what makes your brand/business unique. What values do your customers and prospects associate with you? How can you utilise these to grow your audience? In this case, the Royal Mail brand dismissed the country’s relationship with ‘royalty’ and those trusted associations. A costly mistake.


  • 2000 BT decided to reposition the Company as a communications company not just a telephone business
  • They obtained the rights to use ET as the ‘brand ambassador’ to show the simplicity of communications i.e. even an alien could do it
  • However, ET is known by millions for his catchphrase ‘ET phone home’ defeating the object of the change of positioning

Lesson learned: Choose your brand positioning and messaging carefully. Consistency is key – all of your marketing should communicate the same message to your prospects and customers so that they can buy into what you have to offer. Additionally, it’s important to associate your business with the right partners and your reputation can be damaged by teaming up with the wrong influencers or ambassadors.

Whilst you may not have the resources that these big brands have, you can learn the lessons from their mistakes.

Remember, marketing is not rocket science, it is, however, the lifeblood of your business and a skill you need to develop to scale your business.