There are baffling business decisions that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, yet failed miserably.
Then there are the concepts that can’t have ever have seemed like a good idea – at the time or any other time.
Business boo boos are not only financially costly but can also bring irreparable damage to company images, reputations and careers.
Meanwhile their competitors jump for joy and rub their hands in glee. Someone’s loss is their rival’s gain.
Mistakes can be seen as learning experiences and a guide on what not to do in the future. Small comfort of course, to the poor saps who take the fall and clean out their desks. Still, survival of the fittest and all that.
Check for cultural misunderstandings and do more thorough market research. Make sure the product name doesn’t mean genitalia in another language and ask your 6 year old to check spelling if need be.
Just try harder.
Starbucks into Australia and out of Australia
In 2000 the Starbucks coffee franchise was becoming an ubiquitous world force. It had opened over 150 stores in North America and was starting to expand overseas, with stores in the UK, Japan and the Philippines.
The next point on the Starbucks empire map was Sydney, Australia however things came to a skidding halt. Starbucks just didn’t work out Down Under, unfortunately.
“Hey!” cried Starbucks. “Look at us! Buy our coffee!”
“No thanks,” replied Australia. “Honestly, we’re okay.”
There are several reasons for the failed expansion.
Firstly, Starbucks failed to gauge the considerable European influence on cafe culture that was already prevalent in Australia.
Australia’s multi-cultural society had sophisticated tastes in coffee and the whole café experience.
Coffee was to be consumed with friends and loved ones in intimate atmospheres. The coffee was preferably strong, bitter and thick and expertly made by loving baristas.
The average Aussie knew what they liked whether it was a latte, long black or cappuccino.
Starbucks was big, bright and flashy – selling a product not so much as the experience.
The product was the other problem. The offerings at Starbucks were for North American taste buds with plenty of sugar and cream.
This clashed with the more refined Australian tastes that were geared towards Southern European styles.
Starbucks also expanded too quickly, with cafes popping up everywhere in suburban Australia. This took away from the uniqueness of having your own favorite café and was regarded as too impersonal.
By 2008 Starbucks was losing serious money in Australia and started to close down their stores, focusing instead on other markets such as in China.
Australians simply shrugged and said “Ciao”.
How do you like my tiny genitalia?
Car companies excel in choosing nonsensical names for their products.
Friendee, Carisma, Destiny…sigh. Perhaps one day, Orgasma?
Much like sporting teams when all the good names are taken, the marketing department is left with slim pickings.
Either create a new word like Infinii or raid other languages. Foreign-sounding means exotic, right?
And yet no.
The Ford Pinto was released to guffaws of laughter in Brazil as the Portugese word pinto refers to “tiny male genitalia”.
Wow. Sales weren’t great.
Mazda similarly couldn’t be bothered doing thorough name checks.
Executives were scratching their heads at the poor sales of the Laputa model in Spanish speaking countries. The car itself was sound. Was it the name?
It was then they found out that puta is a Spanish word for prostitute.
Well done, everyone – clean out your desks and mouths immediately.
Beatles? Dumb name for a band
In early 1962 Beatles manager Brian Epstein managed to secure his band an audition with Decca records.
Ringo Starr was yet to join the band so Pete Best joined John, Paul and George in the Decca studio to record 15 songs.
Decca’s boss Dick Rowe listened to the songs before deciding not to sign the Beatles. He knew talent when he saw it and he wasn’t seeing it.
The record company couldn’t see any of the songs becoming hits and politely told Epstein that The Beatles “have no future in show business”.
Epstein and the group were confused as it was a Decca agent who’d seen them blow fans away in Liverpool and had recommended them for an audition.
Decca weren’t convinced and went on to declare that “guitar groups are on the way out”.
The Beatles gave their audition tapes to producer George Martin who was convinced and thought The Beatles most definitely had a future in show business.
Decca knew a winner when they saw one and ended up going for the mighty Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. They stand by it.
What’s in a name? Plenty
When you think Nike, you think big stars and big bucks. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams.
High salaries and high sales, plenty of money for everyone. Too much, if we’re being honest.
LeBron James reportedly earns around $USD 30 million a year for covering himself in Nike.
In 2013 up and coming basketball superstar Stephen Curry was poised to sign with the sneaker giant but changed his mind at the last minute.
Why? A simple name mispronunciation.
Nike presumably thought they only had to turn up to a meeting with Curry who was no doubt simply dying to sign with them. He was only human, after all and they were Nike.
If only they’d made sure that everyone knew how to pronounce his name.
Stephen can be pronounced either as “Stefan” or “Steven”. Curry’s is the former and this should have been widely known even before the meeting.
However, a clueless executive greeted him with “Hey, thanks for coming Stee – ven” and the deal was over.
Curry and his father were pissed off that such a simple detail could be overlooked. They put it down to either arrogance, ignorance or a mixture of both. Either way, it didn’t matter.
Curry went on to sign with Under Armour which proved to be massive.
He continued to rise as a true star of the NBA while Under Armour enjoyed huge sales as a result, establishing their highly sought after street cred.
It’s a simple lesson, not unlike congratulating a woman who might be pregnant. If you’re not 100% sure, best to shut up.
Finding an available website domain can be tough. When you finally find one that’s up for grabs you pounce on it. And maybe wonder why nobody has claimed it yet.
Just your lucky day. You shrug, register the name, print business cards and pay your fees.
Then as you enter the website in your browser, you frown. Something doesn’t seem right. You read it again.
Oh dear. Please God, no.
Companies and organizations that had innocent sounding names when said out loud have then experienced the sickening humiliation of a flawed website name.
If only, if only…
Pen Island is a company that crafts beautiful artisan wood pens. Long, hard pens.
The legal assosciation of Who Represents are doing great things for people in need.
Check them out at www.whorepresents.com
Meanwhile, in Sydney a sex therapist is proud of what she does.
If you need bait and you prefer to get it discreetly you’ll need Master Bait and Tackle.
Mp3 players were great and they had plenty of hits.
Finally, it’s time to recycle for kids. Exchange things.
Thank heavens for your blog, in a dismally bleak Covid lockdown day in my neck of the woods
This has to be one of your most entertaining yet.
I love how you don’t shout your observations but present them in an understated way which gives makes me chuckle all the way through..
Cleverly observed & written.
BTW, I remember the Starbucks embarrassingly short stay in my neighbourhood.
Starbucks are huge though in Japan. Maybe because high pricing (ripoffs) are equated with value over here?