Enough Already With the Silly Marketing Excuses

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

If marketers and analysts put half as much thought into new-product launches as they do into the excuses for failed new-product launches, the world would be a different place.

Not to be blunt, but keep this in mind: It's the product, stupid. Let's take two recent examples.

Microsoft killed off its new Kin phone. Kudos to the company for realizing its product was DOA and for not throwing good money after bad. But what were they thinking in the first place? One of the excuses floated for its dismal failure was pricing. The fact of the matter is Kin was a poorly designed product filling a poorly defined niche. Like it or not, when you're competing with Apple and Google and HTC, you have to step up your game. Sure, pricing may have been part of it -- but not as big a part as the fact the phone didn't do much of what its target audience expects from a phone these days. The phone could have been priced at $5 and it likely would have fared the same.

Hollywood, of course, is famous for a long list of excuses when a movie bombs. The weather was too hot -- or too cold. The critics hated it. The critics liked it, but that turned viewers off. A new Xbox game just came out. And, finally, "We didn't market it correctly."

That was one of the excuses for "Knight and Day." Indeed, Fox Marketing Co-President Tony Sella took one for the team and blamed himself and the marketing.

But how else could he have marketed a movie that looked entirely too similar to "Killers," which looked a lot like "Mr. and Mr. . Smith"? The biggest problem with the marketing was likely the biggest problem with the movie: It was an old idea and it starred Tom Cruise. Many keep expecting the '80s and '90s heartthrob to make his big comeback after taking a train to crazy town. Hollywood execs seem to wish for it so hard, they ignore the reality and crow about how well he was received dressed in a fat suit and makeup for a bit of stunt casting in "Tropic Thunder."

Then again, Hollywood experts and analysts seem to be related to the economic analysts who keep using the word "unexpected" when writing about unemployment numbers that have been rising every month for the last year.

Marketers should take heed. Focus first on product and design -- especially if you're coming late to an idea or category.

Do that and the excuses might not be the most creative thing you're remembered for.

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