Learning from other people’s experiences is the best way to learn from mistakes. It’s safer and doesn’t come with damage to clean up that was caused by your own wrong decision or activity. Both small brands and large corporate giants alike can fall prey to making costly errors that could lead to their demise.

Avoiding global trends, not paying attention to hidden costs, or poor marketing decisions can stop a small business in its tracks as quickly and easily as a world-known brand, as we’re going to see in the following examples.

Lessons Learned from Marketing Mistakes Made by the Biggest Brands

Nokia scenario

While the competition was focusing on developing Android-based models, Nokia decided to stay true to Symbian OS, which had its advantages but wasn’t as open to allowing seamless app development as Android.

In time, Android OS took over the mobile industry and Nokia tried to partner with Microsoft to make up for the loss, but it was too late.

Nokia fell because the brand decided to avoid a global trend and neglected the pulse of the market.

What is Coca Cola?

coca cola urban myth wax tadpole

In 1927 the first Coca Cola bottles reached China. However, the translation of this popular brand name in Chinese means “bite the wax tadpole” which made selling the product a bit awkward. The company had to work fast to find the appropriate characters and dialect to keep the business afloat.

Never forget to research the market before choosing to expand your brand influence. You might lose a chance for business because of cultural differences.

Eat your fingers!

KFC translated its famous “finger-lickin’ good” tagline into “eat your fingers off” for its marketing in Beijing, making a lot of people laugh at this industry titan. Fortunately for Colonel Sanders, the translation was corrected, and the people of China stopped worrying about the safety of their fingers.

But for a small business, a mistake like this could mean hemorrhaging the budget to repair the damage.

What happened to RadioShack?

radio shack marketing mistake ecommerce

The world’s largest electrical equipment supplier did its best to retain customers at the rise of the 21st century. However, the company made a single fatal mistake that cost the owners their business. As e-commerce began to flourish, RadioShack decided to stay true to their brick and mortar operation, completely refusing to embrace the new e-tailing methods. Eventually, e-commerce took over and RadioShack couldn’t handle the competition.

Dysfunctional family

AOL merged with Time Warner in 2001 to create a video streaming platform that they hoped would rule the world. However, the merged company managed to lose over $99 billion because the two entities just weren’t compatible. There were too many management and organization disparities that caused the merger to fail.

Vine downfall

Short videos published instantly and visible to users and viewers all over the world were a revolutionary concept presented by Vine. However, the company failed to offer commercial value with its app, turning off many business users and compelling them to turn to YouTube and then later to Instagram. Eventually, as content creators decided to leave Vine, the developers of this app simply gave up.


Once the most popular social network, Myspace failed to retain users because it didn’t evolve to meet their ever-changing needs. As Facebook offered a more user-friendly environment and added a commercial aspect to its platform, business users naturally took to it over Myspace to reach their audiences. Myspace grew heavy and less user-friendly. Eventually people left it behind.

Premature Secret

Secret was an app that allowed users to post anonymous messages. They managed to raise more than $35 million in venture capital in only a few months. However, the company decided to push the product too soon, without waiting for initial user feedback. The app went live without providing things like a cyber-bully report feature. And they made it difficult for new users to view any content without first connecting with the rest of the community.

Pepsi commercial

In 2017, Pepsi aired a video featuring Kendall Jenner offering a police officer a can of Pepsi during what appears to be a “Black Lives Matter” protest march. The company was accused of diminishing the value and idea of the protest, and was forced to revoke the video and issue an apology as damage control.

Busted Blockbuster

Blockbuster marketing mistakeImage: Wikimedia Commons

Blockbuster was the most popular source of home entertainment for customers all over the USA. However, as the new century kicked in, the company decided to pass on moving its business online and providing online video and gaming services. Eventually people just stopped going to Blockbuster as Netflix and other streaming services took over the market.


We hope these examples will help you avoid making the same mistakes. Keep learning and stay true to your vision but keep your ears and eyes open to stay on top of trends and meet the needs of your target audience.

Alice-Jones200Alice Jones is a writer and journalist who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She writes about business and marketing and is also engaged with several essay service providers where she creates and edits content for a wide array of clients.

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