The best product and brand failures of 2013

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These failures, in no particular order, were found through research in the print media and on the web and from the contents of our brains.

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The best product and brand failures of 2013

  1. presents the best product and brand FAILURES of 013 2 These failures, in no particular order, were found through research in the print media and on the web and from the contents of our brains.
  2. 1 ICI RADIO-CANADA Radio-Canada reports a failure - HERE In trying to clarify its identity across all its platforms, Radio-Canada only made things worse. It forgot to what extent its name went beyond the word 'radio'. And we can't help but wonder what the use of ICI (HERE in French) by reporters as a dateline would give: "This program was brought to you by HERE, from over there; our reporter from HERE is covering events in Syria" … What the f*&#? But seriously, what on earth was the company thinking of by trying to replace Radio-Canada, a solidly established name with an envied reputation, by a word that means HERE. Radio-Canada quickly backed down and neatly turned itself around by including Radio-Canada in its Télé and Première Chaîne signatures, with the prefix ICI stuck on. It's never too late to admit a mistake ;) image: ICI THE MORAL Radio-Canada found out the hard way just how powerfully its public related to the brand name. Somehow, management forgot that Radio-Canada is a strong and distinctive brand that, like the BBC, carries authority. When you're spending the taxpayer's money, it's that much more important to take a hard look at the need for change, and to go ahead only if you're sure that it will add clear value.
  3. 2 LULULEMON A closer look at sheer yoga pants Chip Wilson, the man behind the brand, was forced to step down as chairman of the board after he made inappropriate remarks on Bloomberg TV. Customers had been criticizing the company's popular sheer Luon pants, saying they were virtually see-through. But instead of fixing the problem on the inside, Chip Wilson blamed his customers, implying that the real problem was that they were too fat! His attitude brought the social media down on his head, and after making belated and half-hearted apologies, Chip Wilson was shown the door. In November 2013, Lululemon brought back their famous Luon pants with a tag that read: this is what celebrating failure looks like. A nice try at self-mockery… but it's too little, too late. image: AFP_KEVORK DJANSEZIAN THE MORAL Today's consumers 'own' brands and often know them better than the companies themselves. A company that underestimates its customers and overestimates its importance does so at its own risk. Chip Wilson should have stepped up to quickly and sincerely apologize to his customers; that's where he went wrong.
  4. 3 LANCE ARMSTRONG Downhill all the way On January 16, 2013, Lance Armstrong sat down opposite Oprah Winfrey and frankly admitted to having taken drugs before almost every race. The ensuing shockwave hit the world of sports hard; his main sponsors (Nike, Anheuser-Bush, Trek and Nike) quickly cut him off, his fans were crushed, his accusers were elated and the Livestrong foundation went into full-blown crisis management mode. Lance Armstrong's brand is now virtually worthless. And unlike Tiger Woods, there's not much hope that it will make a comeback. It would seem that it's easier to forgive adultery than lying ;) image: Getty Images THE MORAL Even though we expect honesty and transparency from today's brands, we're willing to accept them and embrace them for what they are, with all their faults and blemishes. What we're not willing to accept is learning that brands that tout themselves as being 'perfect, the best' were lying to us all along.
  5. 4 JC PENNEY Cutting coupons cuts customers Ron Johnson Every trace of Ron Johnson's 17 months at the head of JC Penney are now gone. But the loss of a billion dollars in sales resulting from his bad decisions is far from forgotten. Coming fresh from Apple, Ron Johnson decided to do away with JC Penney's popular discount coupons and to replace them with everyday low prices. This was a strategic mistake that set off a landslide of consequences. Customers no longer recognized THEIR JC Penney, complaints were up and sales were down. The board ended up firing Ron Johnson. His mistake? Trying to force Apple's marketing strategy onto a traditional and conservative retailer, with no real understanding of its brand or its customers. image (Ron Johnson): Ian Gavan_Getty Images image: HQWallpapersplus THE MORAL Every brand has its own DNA and you have to be very careful when you tinker with a brand's core identity. Ron Johnson had done well at Target and Apple, but sometimes success can lead to arrogance and detachment. Could this just be a case of the wrong person, at the wrong place, at the wrong time?
  6. 5 HTC FIRST Facebook in your face. Don't Like. It was the first smartphone to be sold with the Facebook Home app onboard. It was Facebook first, then a smartphone. One month after HTC First was launched, AT&T slashed the price from $99 to…$0.99 to liquidate stocks and discontinue the product. Not only did the Facebook Home app not work very well, people didn't have any use for a single-app phone. On top of that, it wasn't even exclusive, since there was also a Facebook Home download for Androids. image: HTC THE MORAL Just because you like something, in this case Facebook, doesn't mean that you want it constantly in your face. We have become demanding consumers. We want to be free to make our own choices and hate having the impression that they're being forced on us… except when it's something we really want!
  7. 6 COMMENSAL The vegetarian restaurant that kills chickens… The Commensal chain of vegetarian restaurants, which first opened on Montreal's Rue St-Denis back in 1977, found itself on the brink of bankruptcy in 2013 after making a strategic decision that turned out to be a recipe for failure. In an attempt to beef up sales, it decided to add chicken, crab and shrimp to a menu that it defined as 'flexitarian'. The upshot? Loyal customers abandoned restaurants, shared their frustration and their disappointment on social media and Commensal was forced to close most of its restaurants. Commensal (its brand, production facility and retail products) is now owned by the operator of Mikes and Scores. THE MORAL Once you own a word in people's minds, 'vegetarian' in the case of Commensal, you don't fiddle around with it. Especially when it has an ethical connotation. By targeting everyone, Commensal became just like any other restaurant since they're all 'flexitarian', basically. After all, anyone can order a fresh tossed salad at a steakhouse. Once again, we see what happens when management fails to understand its customers and its brand's DNA.
  8. 7 DISCOVERY CHANNEL Faking it for Shark Week In 2013, Discovery Channel's leading series, Shark Week, purported to document the existence of the Megalodon. While scientists don't question the fact that this great shark once existed, they all concur that it is extinct today. And yet, in order to promote its popular Shark Week, Discovery Channel sunk to sensationalism with bogus stories about recent Megalodon attacks or sightings. This from a channel known for its scientific approach that calls itself the world's #1 non-fiction media company. Last August, Discovery viewers bit back, accusing the channel of faking it. When a brand name is based on sound science, you have to rigorously respect that, regardless of the context. "I watch Discovery Channel for science, not science fiction," summed up viewer response. image: Discovery Channel THE MORAL Discovery Channel has not pulled its bogus documentary and for the time being is holding its own. Shark Week is still running and remains popular. But the brand went against its DNA and the 'non-fiction' channel could feel the repercussions in the long term, having lost its credibility and special status with loyal viewers.
  9. 8 BUD LIGHT PLATINUM Bud Light reinvents… not much One year after its introduction in the US, Anheuser-Busch InBev launched 'Bud Light Platinum' in Canada, a light beer weighing in at 6% alcohol per volume. Eye-catching packaging, a sparkling blue bottle and a fat advertising budget - the works! But the question remains: what's so new about Bud Light, and what exactly does it add up to? By definition, a light beer is low alcohol, around 4%; at 6%, has Bud Light Platinum now invented a whole new category? Not such a big deal, even if they do triple-filter it … This comment on the social networks got it right, "Why would anyone pay extra for a more expensive Bud Light?" image: Bud Light Platinum THE MORAL That the Budweiser brand is strong goes without saying; they added the 'cool' factor with their blue Platinum bottle, but they left out an important ingredient: pertinence. Without it, a product extension adds up to exactly zip.
  10. 9 NINTENDO WII U Why keep it simple when you can make it complicated? Released in the US on November 18, 2012, Wii U was pegged as the next revolution from Nintendo Entertainment System - a new console whose touchscreen gamepad would take the gameplay experience to a whole a new level. The only problem is that it didn't live up to the hype… Wii U was Nintendo's next flop, and maybe an even bigger flop than the obsolete GameCube. And if consumers weren't exactly lining up to buy it, third-party developers were equally underwhelmed: 63% felt that it's harder to develop games for Wii U. Then, when Xbox One and PS4 were released, Wii U simply couldn't compete. image: Nintendo THE MORAL This new release, a little bit (too) complex and confusing, didn't make the grade in a rapidly evolving market. Nintendo wasn't able to get gamers or developers onboard. Wii U now finds itself stuck somewhere between consoles for hardcore gamers and tablets and phones for casual gamers … not exactly a whole a new level of gameplay experience.
  11. 10 SAMSUNG’S GALAXY GEAR Back to the present It started with a really cool ad depicting a futuristic sci-fi show where people communicate over their watches. You want it: a smart watch. You just know it's cool before you even see it! But Samsung’s Galaxy Gear would prove to be the biggest gadget of all in 2013; eagerly awaited yet widely criticized. Because when it comes down to it, why do less with a watch when you can already do so much more with your phone or tablet? On top of that, Galaxy Gear only works with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, so who needs that? Not to mention the $300 price tag. As one critic put it, "It’s a cool gadget! But not $300 cool." image: Samsung THE MORAL By November 2013, Samsung had sold 50,000 units. Even the coolest stuff has to take alternative products into account. Samsung's solution obviously didn't deliver the goods when it comes to smart handhelds. A word to the wise: before advertising a high-tech gadget, make sure it works ;)
  12. 11 BLACKBERRY Q10 Feet of clay In 2013, we probably witnessed the last gasp from this former Canadian giant as it attempted to revive its brand: the BlackBerry Q10 (and its Z10 touchscreen counterpart). In recent years, each failed launch has paved the way for iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy and others to pick up market share. BlackBerry, the company that introduced smartphones, that was the top-selling name in its product category, lost its most valuable asset: its power of seduction. Q10 had everything that made BlackBerry such a success in the past, with features that initially impressed critics, but the die was cast and demand was almost nonexistent. image: Blackberry THE MORAL BlackBerry is a case of a series of events that gradually eroded the brand down to almost nothing. BlackBerry was guilty of arrogance, believing itself to be invincible. It let the competition get a foothold without making a real effort to remain on top. Safe, reliable and effective, it had a solid customer base. Yet even with all these same qualities, Q10 is a good idea that came too late.
  13. 12 RDS / TSN The puck stops here In 2013, TSN lost exclusive broadcasting rights for Canadiens hockey games. A new agreement gave TVA Sport the rights to 22 of the team's regular season games, all of the playoff games, including Canadiens games, plus the Stanley Cup finals. A hat trick for TVA, but a huge loss for TSN, which depended heavily on the Canadiens for market share. But the real problem, even before the NHL agreement was signed, was that TSN had let other broadcasting rights slip away, including UFC and Impact soccer games… Luckily, subsequent confirmation of rights to 60 remaining games saved the day for TSN. image (Ron Johnson): Ian Gavan_Getty Images THE MORAL Today's media are waging a global war that goes beyond television. Behind the specialized channels, telecommunications giants are facing off: Bell, Rogers, Quebecor (Videotron), Telus. TSN (Bell Media) got lulled into focusing almost exclusively on Canadiens hockey games, letting TVA slowly take over the niche markets. By putting all its eggs in one basket, one day was all it took to make TSN vulnerable to the competition.
  14. 13 HP CHROMEBOOK 11 Now you see it, now you don't Chromebook 11, a sleek lightweight laptop starting at $279, promised to be a big seller at Amazon and Best Buy but 2013 holiday sales never took off. Launched in the fall, it came with the Google Chrome operating system. But it was pulled off the shelves in November because of defective chargers: 145,000 laptops were recalled. Google and HP announced that sales would soon resume, but as of today, they can't be found on Amazon or at Best Buy. HP Chromebook 11 was a failed launch; it remains to be seen whether the product resurfaces one day and if this time it takes off. image: Google THE MORAL Even aside from its defective vital component, HP Chromebook 11 was the victim of a shrinking market. The past two years has seen a meteoric rise in tablets to the detriment of PCs, and Chromebook represents a mere 1% of this market. You have to wonder why HP and Google chose to launch a new segment of low-cost laptops in the US at this time. Even at just $99, they would have had a hard time selling. The problem isn't so much the product itself, but the weak potential of its category.
  15. ON OUR RADAR image: CBC news image: Myspace image: Microsoft TARGET CANADA MYSPACE MICROSOFT SURFACE Since it opened 124 stores in March 2013, sales have not met goals and the brand is up against the perception that its prices are higher than those of its competitors. Justin Timberlake is now the proud owner of Myspace with its 40 million users, including 14 million artists, but will it be enough to put the former social media leader back in the spotlight? After disastrous sales and the failure of Surface RT (900 million in losses), the future lies in the Surface 2. Can Microsoft at last show us that it understands what consumers want?
  16. HONORABLE MENTION image: Cameron Russell image: Google image: Roy Ritchie & Cadillac FLOWTAB GOOGLE | SPRING CLEANING CADILLAC This startup developed an app that lets you order and pay for drinks in crowded bars. It folded in 2013, but went out with a bang by posting the post mortem on its website. We'll drink to that! In 2013, Google did its usual spring cleaning, bringing the total number of products down to 70 – the same number as in 2011. Google tossed out Cloud Connect, Building Maker and Reader in order to "focus its efforts on building great products". A bold example of what it means to have focus. Relaunched in style, Cadillac has hit cruising speed in the past few years, and made a comeback as a desirable upscale luxury car. Every year Cadillac gets good reviews, and 2013 is no exception: the 2014 CTS has nothing to fear from its Japanese and German rivals.
  17. To reach our Failure specialists : failwatching.com 514-229-2220

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