Avoiding marketing failures is as important as ensuring success to optimise ROI

Even major brands like Blockbuster, KFC and even Google can experience marketing failures and if you’re a smaller business with a smaller budget then there is greater opportunity for mistakes. Avoiding marketing failures should be considered an integral part of your marketing plan because such mistakes can prove very costly indeed.


KFC may be one of the best known chicken takeaway brands in the world but that doesn’t mean that they always get everything right. One mistake in 2009 cost them what must have amounted to a small fortune as well as a massive chunk of their credibility and reputation.

Avoid Marketing Failures ImageKFC promised on the Oprah show that anybody watching could print a coupon entitling them to a free KFC meal. 4 million people attempted to take advantage of this incredibly generous offer. Takeaways couldn’t keep up with demand and rioting even ensued. Oprah initially retracted the coupon before the president of KFC appeared on the show to come good on the offer. Eventually, 10.5 million coupons were used.

What You Can Learn From KFC

Don’t make rash promises and make absolutely certain that you can meet any promises you do make. This marketing failure not only cost KFC money but reputation and credibility too. With that said, of course, it did get people through the door and won the company considerable column inches.


When companies market online they tend to aim for top spot on Google and they are forced to pander to the search giant’s every whim. One such whim was that websites paying bloggers would face a penalty in the search engine results.

Although it turns out that Google did not have any prior knowledge of the mistake, they were found to have used paid bloggers. Posts were created and the nofollow attribute not applied to the resulting links; a major no-no in the Google terms and conditions and one that, at the time, carried a fairly substantial penalty. In order to save face, Google promised to demote the PageRank of the offending Chrome pages and suffered a drop in market share as a result.

What You Can Learn From Google

Always follow the rules or be prepared to face the punishment. Google saved face well by implementing the penalty on themselves but, in reality, they had little choice but to do so. They not only lost face and were subjected to some fairly serious backlash but they also lost market share as a result of this particular marketing failure.

Dr Pepper

Another cautionary tale on making impossible promises comes from soft drinks maker Dr Pepper. It may not have proven as costly as KFC’s error but relying on the unreliability of rock group Guns n Roses, it turns out, was an unreliable marketing venture.

Following the failure of Guns n Roses to complete their album Chinese Democracy, Dr Pepper said that if the album was ever completed they would give a free soda to every American. They obviously believed that it wouldn’t happen due to numerous stalled and aborted attempts by the band previously. However, whether spurred on by the thought of providing a can of soft drink to every US citizen or not, the band came good and finished the album.

Dr Pepper set up a website that allowed people to register for a free coupon. The site was only up for 24 hours and it crumbled due to the number of people that attempted to take advantage of the offer.

What You Can Learn From Dr Pepper

This was another case on failing to come good on a marketing promise and Dr Pepper paid the price. They lost face and it cost them financially too. If you are going to make promises, ensure that you can follow through or that there is absolutely no way that you can be caught out.

Marketing Failures

Marketing failures like these can prove very costly but even the smaller mistakes can prove damaging to your reputation and your bottom line. Think about every marketing message you send out and every promise you make. If you don’t then you could end up having to provide a free can of Dr Pepper and a fried chicken meal to anybody that prints off a coupon. Avoiding marketing failures should be considered critical to your marketing success.

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