If you want a company or a business to be successful, or even get off the ground, then you need a good brand for customers to get behind. Branding is arguably essential nowadays, especially given how vital a role the likes of social media can serve, and can mean the difference between huge profits and massive losses.

Funniest Branding Fails

This is why so many businesses will do everything they can to set themselves apart from their competition. Having the loudest voice is no longer the way to get customer’s attention, and sometimes drastic measures need to be taken to get the word out about a new product, service, or business in general, which often leads to some truly insane marketing and branding attempts.

Rombus Packaging takes a look at a handful of these baffling branding decisions, with hopes that companies can learn from them in the future. Or, failing that, provide us with some even funnier examples of how not to brand yourself.

Branding

Image courtesy of NeoGAF

Ion Storm

The hubris of John Romero is synonymous with the legend in the gaming industry, and for a good reason too. The outstanding, if the slightly odd game developer was the pinnacle of success during his days at id Software, spearheading iconic releases like Doom and Quake, which was why he allowed confidence to get the best of him and prompted him to found his own company, Ion Storm.

This new company and sense of defiance were what blindly led Romero to create the infamously awful game, Daikatana, and brand both himself and his new company with marketing campaigns that still conjure confusion and laughter to this day. Billboards, bus stops, and storefronts across the US confidently stated that John Romero himself was going to make us, the players, his b*tch, a blatant display of confidence in his upcoming release.

As red flags go, this cocky attitude should be one of them, and yet the company continued to make Daikatana. More red flags began popping up as the games release date got pushed further and further back until, finally, it was released…and lambasted by the games industry as a whole for being almost unforgivably bad.

Branding

Image courtesy of AdAge

MySpace

Many will remember what arguably kicked off the social media trend; MySpace. Many more will also not forget how Facebook came along and gutted its predecessor, though it’s what the brave little social media platform did after the mass exodus to Facebook that few know about.

A rather bemusing twist of fate saw MySpace become primarily a music platform, which on its own is unusual, but it was also met with a rebranding attempt. Abandoning the off-Facebook-blue logo in favor of a blank, modern-looking icon, MySpace converted to something simplistic.

As admirable as the new logo is, it merely seems to highlight the fact that most of its users jumped ship and left it empty. Irony aside, the new logo was too little too late, begging the question of why they decided to wait so long for a rebranding attempt.

Branding

Domino’s

Sometimes wild success can be even more dangerous than no buzz at all, a lesson that the Russian Domino’s franchise discovered when launching their ‘Dominos Forever’ campaign. The campaign offered “100 free pizzas a year for 100 years” to any customers that got the Domino’s logo tattooed on them.

From a monetary perspective, this is truly the deal of a lifetime; with a £50 tattoo essentially netting someone on average two pizzas a week for the rest of their lives. This is the logic that flooded Domino’s social media accounts with hundreds and thousands of tattoo pictures.

Domino’s had to do a few quick amendments to their competition, but the damage had already been done. They eventually stated that the limit of prizes was 350, but this did little to stop the flood of thousands of tattooed and hungry entrants.

Branding

American Dairy Association

It’s easy for confidence to get the best of some companies, and since the American Dairy Association coined the universally recognized, American zeitgeist phrase of ‘Got Milk?’ it’s easy to see how they could make some mistakes when crossing language barriers.

As anyone who’s used Google Translate for anything more than a few words can attest to, sometimes simple phrases or sentences can become warped between English and other languages. As iconic and simplistic as it is, ‘Got Milk?’ doesn’t translate directly in Spanish.

Given that Spanish is one of the most universally spoken languages in the world it’s all the more embarrassing that ‘Got Milk?’ translates to ‘Are You Lactating?’ in Spanish. The phrase doesn’t exactly make people thirsty for milk, so naturally, the campaign failed spectacularly.

Branding
Image courtesy of Prettyinprint

Coca Cola

In another excellent example of mistranslation going wrong, it’s clear to see that even titans of industries can slip up when transferring their messages to another market. Or, at the very least, that’s the best explanation for how Coca Cola tried to advertise in China.

Enigmatically, ‘Coca Cola’ appeared to translate into ‘bite the wax tadpole.’ What can be said about this? Well, if nothing else, it’s another example where a localization team would have gone wonders.

Mistranslation examples could fill this entire list but, for the sake of restraint, the last referenced case will be another hilarious off-brand Spanish example, where Parkers Pens’ slogan of “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” to…Well, “It won’t leak out of your pocket and make you pregnant.”

We should hope not, Parkers Pens, we should hope not.

Branding
Image courtesy of Mashable

Burger King

It can’t be easy to compete against a juggernaut like McDonald’s, but if anyone can, it would be Burger King. At least, it should have been, if not for the latter’s string of perplexing and awful branding attempts.

The proverbial crown on Burger King is, without a doubt, ‘The King’, though as creepy as Creepy King is, Burger King has made even worse branding mistakes than this. One of which was a mystifying decision in the mid-80s to create their own, bland version of ‘Where’s Wally’ with some random guy called Herb.

Perhaps the most tone-deaf and off-putting decision though was 2009’s ‘Breakfast Babe’ campaign where, well, the slogan alone says it all: “Watch the shower babe shake her bits to the hits at 9:30 am every morning.” That’s right. It was just a webcam showing a woman showering; because Burger King’s just for the boys.

Branding
Image courtesy of Manchester Evening News

Royal Mail

One would have thought that a national institute wouldn’t need to undergo any form of rebranding; especially one that used to be publicly owned. Alas, we live in a world where even the most puzzling of branding attempts can be made for the sake of goals that escape common sense.

In early 2001, the UK’s most significant post service, Royal Mail, decided to rebrand itself as ‘Consignia.’ Perhaps seeking to improve their public image via word association, Consignia didn’t successfully portray many of the meanings of ‘consign,’ such as ‘to set apart, as for special use of purpose’ or ‘to give over to the care of another.’

It might have helped if the word ‘consign’ was more universally standard, but as it hardly crops up in daily conversation, the new name was met with a lot of confusion. To make matters worse, the new logo was painfully bland and already looked dated at the beginning of the Millenium.

Above all else, the decision was a complete waste of money; costing an estimated £2.5 million to rebrand itself and revert back to the old branding.

Branding
Image courtesy of Donielle – Wikimedia

Turner Broadcasting/Interference Inc.

Some say that any kind of publicity is good publicity, but few would agree that being associated with a ‘bomb hoax’ is particularly helpful for promoting a comedy movie. In early 2007, the city of Boston found itself covered in LED signs branded with two characters from the TV show ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’, yet Bostonites responded to these signs with a bit of an uproar.

Now dubbed the ‘2007 Boston Mooninite Panic’, the Boston Police Department and the Boston Fire Department determined that these LED signs were potentially bombs and so set the public up in a swirl of panic; going so far as to arrest the two men responsible for putting them around the city. Given the ‘cult following’ status of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it’s not surprising that many city officials couldn’t determine who these two characters were, and it wasn’t until a young staffer at the Mayor’s office informed them that it was the Mooninites, Ignignokt, and Err.

In hindsight, these LED signs are clearly underground marketing attempts. But the embarrassment of the city of Boston is still felt to this day, with many saying that the official response to the signs was a tad overkill. It’s hard to argue with these comments when considered the sent ‘an army of emergency vehicles’ to each symbol.