Have you ever wondered how some companies come up with mind-blowing ad campaigns and others just go down in flames? To help find the answers, I researched and compiled a list of some of the best and worst branding campaigns of all time.
Companies That Made Us Want to Go Out and Buy Stuff:
1) Volkswagen – With their 1959 campaign, “Think Small”, Volkswagen emphasized the car’s small form with lots of white space surrounding it and explained that although the car did not have a streamlined roof and did not go fast, it could just cruise past the gas station thanks to its high fuel efficiency. Simple, smart and honest.
2) Coca-Cola – “The Pause that Refreshes” made its first appearance in The Saturday Evening Post around 1929. The company launched this campaign under the commonly accepted belief that men and women work better if given a few breaks in their day. The campaign, however, just happened to coincide with the beginning of the Great Depression when people didn’t even have jobs anymore but, it seemed to uplift the nation and give it some hope.
3) Marlboro – The Marlboro man, born in 1954, was created as the ultimate symbol of masculinity. Before his arrival, they mainly focused on selling to women and had just a small percentage of the cigarette market. With the introduction of this rugged cowboy, however, men started buying the product and their revenue increased within a single year.
4) Nike – The “Just Do It” campaign in 1988 targeted every American regardless of age, race or fitness and made them feel tough. People starting wearing the gear not just for sports but as a fashion statement.
5) McDonald’s – With the slogan “You deserve a break today”, they turned their attention to busy consumers in this 1971 campaign and focused on the ease with which a McDonald’s meal could be obtained. This concept still works today.
Companies That Made Us Say “Yikes!”:
1) Coca-Cola – New Coke. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They tried to tamper with a tried and true formula by throwing it out and replacing it with something that was totally unproven. The public wasn’t going for that and executives soon learned from the mistake and brought back the old formula.
2) Ford – The Ford Edsel was a $400 million marketing disaster. Not only was it competing against its own sister divisions, buyers did not understand what the car was supposed to be—a step above the Mercury, or a step below it. Things got so bad that the name “Edsel” eventually became synonymous with commercial failure.
3) Wrigley – When they launched Life Savers Soda in the 1980s, it turned out that consumers didn’t care what it tasted like. They couldn’t get past the concept of the Life Savers brand as soda, and no one wanted to drink carbonated liquid candy.
4) Colgate – In 1982, they decided to get into the frozen food business and came up with a product called Kitchen Entrees. Unfortunately, customers didn’t exactly line up to get their hands on meals made by the same people who put peppermint paste in a tube.
5) McDonald’s – The Arch Deluxe, in 1996, was advertised as an “adult-oriented” burger with a $150 million ad campaign behind it. That was one of the most expensive in history. Turns out the price of the burger was higher than most people were willing to pay and the calorie content was off the charts. It ended up bombing.
Hitting a campaign out of the park just once, isn’t easy and some companies do it time and time again. Some setbacks may be easy to recover from, while others can take down the entire brand. In Henry Ford’s day, if things went wrong, you probably could expect to get back to business as soon as the next day. With today’s marketplace, unfortunately, and the often unforgiving world of social media, years of reputations and relationships can come to a crashing halt within seconds.