Bright orange boxes aren’t enough
Many of the brands in this section have failed because they were too far away from what the consumer wanted, but sometimes products fail because they aren’t different enough from other popular products. This is certainly the case of Radion washing powder. Along with Pear’s Soap, Radion was one of the many Unilever brands for the chop when the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate announced it would be narrowing its scope on 400 ‘power’ brands. Launched 10 years before the February 2000 announcement, Radion had struggled to capture just over 2 per cent of the
Although the product’s vibrant design (Radion came in shocking orange packets) meant that the brand was easily identifiable on supermarket shelves, consumers were less than sure why they should buy it. It wasn’t the cheapest, it wasn’t considered the best quality, it wasn’t the oldest or the original. It was simply the brand with the brightest packaging. And that, in the end, is rarely enough.
Unilever’s final decision was to amalgamate Radion into its brand, and it continues under the banner Surf Fun Fresh.
Lesson from Radion
- Be different. Brands need to have a strong point of difference from their competition. After all, this is the very point of branding in the first place. Garish packaging was not enough to win over consumers.
Clairol’s ‘Touch of Yoghurt’ shampoo
Launched in 1979, Clairol’s yoghurt-based shampoo failed to attract customers largely because nobody liked the idea of washing their hair with yoghurt. Of those who did buy the product, there were even some cases of people mistakenly eating it, and getting very ill as a result. The ‘Touch of Yoghurt’ concept is made even more remarkable by the introduction three years earlier by Clairol of a similar shampoo called the ‘Look of Buttermilk.’
This product had instantly bombed in test markets where consumers were left asking: what exactly is the ‘look of buttermilk’ and why should I want it?
In the late 1980s, Pepsi spotted a previously unexploited consumer: the breakfast cola drinker. Although Pepsi hadn’t conducted much comprehensive market research into this area, the company realized that many young adults were drinking caffeinated cola rather than coffee for breakfast. They therefore came up with Pepsi AM, a drink ‘with all the sugar and twice the caffeine.’
Unfortunately, Pepsi had failed to appreciate that although some people drank Pepsi for breakfast, there was no specific demand for a new sub-brand centred around that usage. ‘If a consumer doesn’t know he [or she] has a need, it’s hard to offer a solution,’ says brand expert and marketing author Robert McMath. ‘Sometimes a company can manufacture a need – but it’s expensive that way.’
Nobody knew they wanted Pepsi AM, so nobody bought it. Furthermore, many marketing experts have successfully argued that because its name dictated when the product should be consumed, the market size was restricted to specific-occasion usage. Another bad idea, another flop.
Maxwell House ready-to-drink coffee
General Foods launched cartons of Maxwell House ready-to-drink coffee in 1990. The cartons, which appeared in the refrigerated sections of supermarkets, declared the product represented ‘a convenient new way to enjoy the rich taste of Maxwell House Coffee.’ The packaging stated that the coffee was brewed with ‘crystal clear water,’ and promised that the ‘fresh brewed flavour and aroma are locked in this exclusive foil-lined fresh-pack.’ The cartons also had a convenient screw-on plug to aid ease of use. The only trouble was the product couldn’t be microwaved in its original container.
Therefore the key incentive to buy ready-to-drink coffee – convenience – was taken away. As no-one fancied drinking cold coffee, the product failed.
Another attempt at making life more convenient was soup manufacturer
The company spent millions on generating awareness for the ‘Souper Combo’ sub-brand, and the initial sales results were quite encouraging. However, it soon became clear that these were from people making one-off purchases, trying the product out of sheer curiosity. Consumers realized that despite the claims of increased convenience, it was actually quicker and easier to open a can of soup and make your own sandwich than prepare a Souper Combo. They therefore didn’t buy the product again.
Thirsty Cat! And Thirsty Dog!
Bottled water for pets
The worst of all bad ideas must surely be the Thirsty Cat! and Thirsty Dog! brands of bottled water designed for pampered pets. Although the water came in such ‘thirst-quenching’ flavours as Crispy Beef and Tangy Fish, pets and their owners remained unimpressed.