We at the MBD computer science labs asked ChatGPT to tell us what the most notable marketing blunders between 1975-2005 were. As you read “It’s” response below, you may begin to feel a certain sense of unease. That is your human intuition freaking out as it tries to anticipate what direction our coevolution with technology will go in as it blasts off like a rocket…
“Marketing blunders are a common occurrence in any industry, and the technology sector is no exception. From poorly timed product launches to tone-deaf advertising campaigns, there have been many examples of tech companies making costly mistakes over the years. In this blog post, we’ll explore three case studies of big blunders in technology marketing between the years 1975-2005.
Case Study 1: Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (ME): In September 2000, Microsoft released Windows Millennium Edition (ME), the successor to the popular Windows 98 operating system. ME was marketed as a major improvement over its predecessor, promising improved stability, performance, and multimedia capabilities. However, the reality was far from what was promised, and ME turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in Microsoft’s history.
The problems with ME were numerous. It was buggy and unstable, with frequent crashes and errors. Many hardware and software programs that worked with Windows 98 didn’t work with ME, and the new features that were supposed to make it better, such as System Restore and Windows Media Player 7, were often more trouble than they were worth.
Despite these issues, Microsoft continued to push ME aggressively in its marketing campaigns. One infamous ad showed a man on a rollercoaster, representing the ups and downs of using a computer, and promised that ME would make the ride smoother. However, users quickly realized that the ride with ME was anything but smooth.
The result was a marketing disaster for Microsoft. The negative word of mouth about ME spread quickly, and many users avoided upgrading to the new operating system. Microsoft eventually pulled the plug on ME in 2003, just three years after its release, and it remains a black mark on the company’s history.
Lessons Learned: The lessons from the ME debacle are clear. First, never release a product that isn’t ready. ME was rushed to market to meet a deadline, and it showed in the final product. Second, don’t oversell your product’s features. Microsoft promised the moon with ME, but couldn’t deliver on those promises. Finally, listen to your customers. The issues with ME were well-known in the tech community, but Microsoft continued to ignore them in its marketing efforts.
Case Study 2: IBM PCjr: In 1984, IBM released the PCjr, a home computer that was meant to compete with the popular Apple II and Commodore 64. The PCjr was marketed as a powerful and versatile machine, with advanced features like a built-in RF modulator for connecting to a TV, speech synthesis, and joystick ports.
However, the PCjr was a commercial failure, and its marketing strategy was a major contributing factor. IBM had a reputation for building high-end, business-oriented computers, and the PCjr was seen as a departure from that image. Additionally, the company had decided to market the PCjr primarily through retailers, rather than directly to consumers, which limited its exposure.
IBM’s advertising for the PCjr also fell flat. One commercial showed a father and son trying to use the computer to design a rocket, but failing miserably. Another featured comedian Bill Cosby using the PCjr to play a game, but the game was so slow and unresponsive that it was painful to watch.
The PCjr’s high price was another issue. At $1,239 (equivalent to over $3,000 today), the PCjr was significantly more expensive than other home computers on the market, and it lacked many of the features that users expected, such as a built-in disk drive.
Lessons Learned: The failure of the PCjr provides several lessons for technology companies. First, know your audience. IBM’s reputation as a business-oriented company didn’t translate well to the home computer market. Second, be mindful of your marketing channels.”