Sunday, August 26, 2007


Isn't it satisfying, that warm glow of satisfaction one gets when a large corporation makes a huge mess of something. It's a chance to get the thesaurus out and start playing with words like hubris and schadenfreude.

Corporate cock-ups take many forms but I think they can be put into two (possibly three) basic categories.

Firstly, there is the cock-up that involves delivering a product to the market place that people simply look at bemusedly, and despite the inevitable marketing and advertising onslaught, say to themselves "Why the hell would I want one of those?"

The second is the update to an existing product. This is where the company already has a succesful product but decides that, after years of success and money-making of the hand-over-fist variety, that they can improve it. A risky strategy.

The third and slightly ancillary category is the useless but invaribly expensive enhancement or add-on that the punter generally sees for what it is. A manipulative ploy to cash in on something that really should've been part of the product in the first place and now we're expected to pay for it as an accessory.

However, it's not just commercial organisations that do this. Rather disappointly, governments that we elect and pay for do this sort of thing equally well and often on an even grander scale that any mere multi-national could manage.

So, in the spirit of schadenfreude and hubris, here's my list of the top ten corporate/government/political cock-ups:-

1. Coca Cola and the Dasani tapwatergate scandal
2. The Ford Edsel
3. Collectively, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and numerous other UK TV broadcasters and the scandal of the dodgy phone-ins
4. Coca Cola (again) and Classic/New Coke
5. The Post Office and Consignia
6. IBM OS/2 - I guess you had to be in IT in the 80s to know about this one
7. The Millennium Dome
8. Neil Kinnock - alllright, yeeeaaaahhh, alllllright.
9. Reality show winners. The music business is a notoriously hype-driven industry that is utterly dependent on scamming people as quickly as possible before they realise the transparent dreadfulness of the product they're being expected to buy. Almost all reality show winners really only belong on a cruise ship knocking out show tunes to grannies and, in a just world, both they and the record companies that promote them to make a quick buck would realise this, and not build up these poor deluded individuals only to sack them after their first album takes a dive.
10. And finally, my tip for the future - climate change. I predict this will be forgotten within a generation and thoroughly upstaged by a religiously provoked armageddon between US Christian fundamentalists and their equally loopy Islamic opposite numbers. A bit of a long-range bet I admit, but watch this space. Check back here in twenty years time and I think you'll find I was right. If I'm not, then you can start using words like hubris and schadenfreude yourself.

I've just googled tapwatergate as I thought of it myself and I can happily say that there are only five hits and none are in the context large companies trying to flog us bottled tap water which makes me rather pleased that I thought of it myself.

I'm sure there are other bigger ones I've forgotten. Contributions please....

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