To paraphrase a song lyric: Onto every brand, some rain may fall.
Avoiding an embarrassing brand storm starts with meticulous attention on all fronts: planning, production, and marketing all the way through the fine details such as server architecture, and logo fonts.
Don’t think it can happen to you? Even the smallest oversight can snowball. Below, we call out infamous tech branding glitches and offer remedies to keep you off the list.
1. Not knowing what’s in a name. Panasonic introduced the first touch-screen PC in 1996
, marketed as Woody. The touch screen feature was then named “Touch Woody” with the slogan, “Touch Woody, the Internet Pecker.”
: Great product with a bad name.
: As you push into new markets, be conscious of the linguistics and slang that could make your great product sound like a creepy uncle.
2. Forcing a square peg into a round hole.
When Windows 8 was released for the desktop, it pushed a sleek mobile interface with features like touch-screen functionality and tiling. However, users of the traditional Windows operating system didn’t welcome the advanced interface
. Likewise, enterprises were reluctant to adopt it, as the peripherals needed to upgrade PCs to use the new features didn't add enough value.
: Too much change all at once.
: Know your users. Just because you build it, that doesn’t mean they’ll love it.
3. Alienating core consumers.
Netflix made a faulty assumption that slicing its product line to better stratify its offerings
would make it more profitable. But increased pricing for consumers and the Qwikster offering were quickly rolled back.
: Violating the value proposition.
: If they like you for being inexpensive and easy to use, don’t tinker with your prices or your formula.
4. Stress test before launch.
Healthcare.gov launched in late 2013 to unexpectedly high traffic volumes (five times as many users as the Medicare.gov site had ever seen). The resulting public relations nightmare took two months to fix and left a permanent smear on the new health care program.
: Lack of thorough load testing
: Take the time to do extensive load testing before going live—even if it means a delay. Test for the worst possible scenario to avoid a major failure at launch.
5. Be vigilant.
After security researchers warned SnapChat
of a weakness associated with its "Find Friends" feature, nothing was done to correct it. The researchers published the vulnerability, allowing hackers to access millions of customer records.
: Minor coding anomalies can cause major security breaches.
: Maintain bulletproof security and code integrity, and if you’re lucky enough to get a tip from the public about a security issue, fix it before it breaks you.
6. Design backups for the surge.
After a surge of data sent its systems into backup mode, a bug in the backup system
left NASDAQ, which processes over a million messages per second
, down for over three hours in August 2013. The incident brought into question the reliance on software and automation in sensitive trading markets.
: Faulty backup system.
: Regularly run “fire drills” to catch glitches that could yield your backup system useless.
7. Pick your battles.
In a dispute with Google
, Apple scrapped Google’s map app in favor of Apple Maps in the iOS 6 update. Instantly, users complained of inaccurate directions and faulty street views. Social media chatter exacerbated the failure. Curiously, Google launched the disputed features
in its iOS 6 app a few months later.
: Sacrificing reputation for speed to market.
: By forcing its maps app out too soon, it not only betrayed lost drivers on the road but also undermined its brand ideal of producing superior products.
8. A mea culpa is good for the brand.
A “hardware outage” in December 2013 prevented Yahoo mail users from accessing their accounts and created bad press and media criticism around delayed user notifications
: Transparency is the best policy.
: We all make mistakes. Being honest and punctual about admitting them can safeguard your corporate integrity.
9. Stay focused on your core.
In 2011, the release of the Missoni fashion line coincided with Target’s decision to move its website infrastructure back in-house from a major hosting provider
. As a result of the traffic generated by the release, traffic that could have theoretically been handled flawlessly by the hosting provider was plagued by downtime on Target.com. A flurry of bad press quickly followed.
: Infrastructure without massive scalability.
: Know when you can do it better and when you can’t.
10. Don’t stretch your offer.
Verizon aggressively marketed unlimited broadband service to an Internet surfing-hungry market to rave reviews. That was until users started getting booted off for doing things like watching YouTube
or going over the “unlimited” 5GB per month. They were eventually sued for false advertising and paid out $1 million
to misled consumers.
: Marketing oversold the product.
: Don’t offer something you can’t deliver.
Lizetta Staplefoote is a marketing copywriter at open cloud hosting company Rackspace, where she brings a decade of experience writing about small business challenges for healthcare, real estate, and technology.
Learn more at Rackspace Digital, the infrastructure specialists for content, commerce, and mobile applications.