While catching up on some reading on a flight yesterday I came across an article in Business 2.0 on the 101 Dumbest Moments: The Year’s Biggest Boors, Buffoons, and Blundereres. The online version (linked) is even better, with a "where are they now" look at the winners from 2003 through 2005.
The 2006 list is amusing, and actually rather stunning. These moments were created by supposedly bright, experienced executives. Didn’t they think first? Did they talk to their customers and staffs? Or did they simply have a brain fart in the shower one morning, which they executed as soon as they walked into the office? You have to actually work hard to pull off some of these doozies. Just a couple examples:
#4: General Motors. They created a website with video and music clips, and asked visitors to help create a new ad campaign for the Chevy Tahoe. The result? Ads with taglines such as "Yesterday’s technology today" and "Global warming isn’t a pretty SUV." In a roundabout way, this was perhaps a bizarre form of market research. I wonder if GM learned anything.
#11: Starbucks. The company created a coupon for a free iced coffee and asked employees in one regional location to email it to a few friends. But someone apparently didn’t understand how email worked, and the coupon got sent globally. The company recinded the offer after realizing that anyone and everyone on the planet can basically get a free drink, but one disgruntled customer has already filed a class action lawsuit. Ask someone about technology first. Like an average six year-old.
#51: Honda. The car company apparently didn’t proof its owners manual, as over a million copies went out with a typo in a toll free service number that sent callers to a phone sex hotline. Although a big improvement over the translated owners manuals we’ve seen from foreign companies in the past, when something is going out to a million customers it’s worth the time to proof it line by line.
#89: City of Hoboken. A new computerized multi-story parking garage triuped the parking density, but then Robotic Parking hiked its monthly fees by 20%. The city booted the company, the company shut down the software, and dozens of cars were trapped in the garage. The city then paid $1.9 million to a new firm to install new software. We often rant against being too dependent on software, and this is a perfect example of why.
#90: Bristol-Myers Squibb. Company executives signed off on an agreement to stave off a patent challenge on a profitable drug. However in the fine print was a loophole that allowed a generic drugmaker five days to flood the market with an off-brand version. By the time BMS got an injunction, they had lost more than $500 million in profit. Take the time to read the fine print, especially if it could be worth a half a billion. Although I also wonder how that generic drugmaker had that much product available on a moment’s notice… what would have happened to it if the loophole had been closed before signing?
Think, people. You have a staff for a reason. And if you don’t have a capable staff, then ask a six year-old kid.