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Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time Hardcover – May, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


""Haig, a marketing consultant, is one of a new breed of writers producing marketing primers for the hyphenated age of e-marketing. This type of work is characterized by breezily written snippets of success or failure as either encouragement or admonition for the practitioner or for a new category of reader: the business voyeur. Thus these works are written in a readable and appealing format, as e-business fables. Examining 'the 100 biggest branding mistakes of all time, ' Haig organizes these 100 ""failures"" into ten types, each with its own moral and admonition. These types include classic failures (e.g., New Coke), idea failures (e.g., R.J. Reynolds' smokeless cigarettes), extension failures (e.g., Harley Davidson perfume), culture failures (e.g., Kelloggs in India), and technology failures (e.g., Pets.com). The idea behind this work is that with knowledge these failures can be avoided, but this reviewer regards it as akin to Monday morning quarterbacking in its validity as an activity. None of this takes away the schadenfreude of this well-written, quick read. Useful more as a cultural artifact than classroom text, this book could serve as supplementary reading for advanced marketing courses and for business voyeurs who like a good read. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduate and graduate students; and practitioners."" -- S. A. Schulman, CUNY Kingsborough Community College

About the Author

Matt Haig is an acclaimed author and journalist. His books include: E-PR: The Essential Guide to Public Relations on the Internet; Mobile Marketing: the Message Revolution; and The E-marketing Handbook (all Kogan Page).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Kogan Page Business Books (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749439270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749439279
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a great collection of brand-related failures, and many of the incidents covered in this book are both entertaining and informative. However, while all of these cases show failure, I don't think that they all show mistakes. By 'mistake', I mean that the company made a foolish decision that they could reasonably be expected to have made differently at the time.

A lot of these failures we can see in hindsight were because of certain decisions, but it many cases, based on the information provided in the book, it doesn't seem that the decision was wrong given the knowledge and information at hand at the time.

In the end, this book is definitely a fun read for the most part, but most of the time the 'lessons learned' presented at the end of each case seem to be contradicted by some other company somewhere that made the same sorts of decisions and succeeded. Because of this, the only real lesson this book can teach is that there are no absolute rules to successful branding, and while there are certain guidelines that can usually be followed, there are always exceptions to the rules, and quite often the biggest successes have been the companies that defied conventional wisdom.

On a different note, I'm not sure how reliable the information in this book is, since two of the examples provided, the Chevy Nova, and Gerber's baby food in Africa, are regularly repeated examples, however they did not fail for the reasons presented in the book (which are the same reasons usually given by people who tell these stories). These may be exceptions, but they do make me question just how much research was put into the cases presented in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
What we have here in this especially interesting as well as informative book is Haig's version of "the truth about the 100 biggest branding mistakes of all time." With this subtitle, Haig immediately sets himself up for lively disagreement concerning (a) the reasons for why certain brands fail and (b) his selection of the failures themselves. I value this book so highly because Haig (by assertion or implication) challenges his reader to examine her or his own current problems with branding. Frankly, his explanation of brand failure makes sense to me and all of the 100 failed brands he discusses serve seem worthy of examination. He identifies what he calls "the seven deadly sins of branding": amnesia, ego, megalomania, deception, fatigue, paranoia, and irrelevance. One or more is evident in each of the 100 brand failures on which he focuses.
Haig carefully organizes his material within ten chapters. It is easy enough for those who read this brief commentary to check out the Contents so I see no need to provide it. (Thanks Amazon!) He provides a "Lessons from...." section at the conclusion of most extended analyses. All of the usual suspects are discussed: New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Sony Betamax, McDonald's Arch DeLuxe, Campbell Soup (souper combo), Harley Davidson (perfume), Ben Gay (aspirin), Colgate (kitchen entrees). Pond's (toothpaste) in consumer products; as for dot.coms, Pets.com, VoicePod, and Excite@home. He even examines a number of PR fiascoes.
I take at least three lessons from Haig's book. First, even the largest organizations with the greatest resources (including some of the brightest people) can make bad brand decisions and sometimes repeat them with another failed attempt.
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Format: Paperback
I went into reading this book with the highest of expectations both because of the other reviews on it and because I am really interested in the topic.

It started out interestingly enough but quickly went downhill. The first few case studies were pretty in depth and interesting but towards the middle of the book they got really short and shallow. It is almost as if the writer became impatient with his own book. If you don't want to write in detail about 100 brands then just don't. Write in depth about a handful but make the case studies meaningful.

The subtopics were also not logical for me. For me a better format would have been: Chapter one / Lesson one: Research your market. Then give some examples of brands that failed to do so. Chapter two / lesson two: Kill the product not the brand. Then some examples. And so on. But it was not arranged like that. In fact none of the lessons seemed to tie together that well. Surely the author could have found some more logical groupings.

Overall I give the book two stars.
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Format: Paperback
Brand Failures / 9780749444334

Who doesn't love reading about epic failures in marketing and product branding? A good "brand autopsy" can be both fun and educational, and can really help educate amateurs (like me) and marketing savvy experts alike on what pitfalls to avoid and how to properly package and market a new brand.

"Brand Failures" attempts to ambitiously tackle 101 famous branding mistakes and errors, from the classic "New Coke" to the failure of "Betamax" to Kodak's recent efforts to remain relevant in a world where casual consumers are increasingly turning away from film and to digital cameras. If there is a problem with this approach, it is that at 235 pages, each brand failure story is spread distressingly thin - most of the vignettes have less than 2 pages devoted to them. This simply isn't enough time and space to discuss all the factors that went into the failure of Enron, or Crystal Pepsi, or most of the other brands on display here.

The other problem with this approach is that some of the "autopsy analysis" statements seem a little questionable. It's easy, of course, to say when a brand has failed, but it's much harder to say WHY the brand has failed. Did "Earring Ken" really fail because his 'alternative' approach to masculinity alienated homophobic parents, or did he fail for the same reason that Ken sales have traditionally lagged behind Barbie - because little girls care more about the doll they can project upon? Did the leather substitute Corfam really fail because it didn't "feel" as good as real leather, or was it because the company failed to emphasize the animal-cruelty issue (which would still be a failure to correctly market a brand, but a different failure than what is given here)?
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