2007's dumbest moments in business according to Fortune (and me)

Being the end of the year, everyone jumps in on Top lists, both retrospectively and looking to the new year. Fortune created its list of 101 Dumbest Moments in Business in 2007. From the peanut gallery, I can’t help but comment on their list and add a few of my favourite dumbest moments of the year in business and technology.

From Fortune’s list…

8. KFC/Taco Bell rats video in NYC

Did you really need a video to remind you KFC/Taco Bell is likely to kill you? Apparently, a million people did.

16. Microsoft’s PR firm sends writer own background document

Now that’s probably one of my worse nightmares when handling the PR aspect of a project. I’ve never had 13-pages long background files on anyone, but certain short notes which are helpful in remembering how to handle certain difficult people would probably not be received too well, should it fall in the hands of the person profiled.

17. Cocaine energy drink

Well, the marketing team can’t say they didn’t see that one coming when they picked the name. While I don’t approve of the choice of name, find another product that can call itself “Censored” or “NoName” yet keep a supposedly cool cachet to it due to its previous name.

36. Best Buy

“The state of Connecticut sues Best Buy for setting up in-store kiosks set to a website that looks identical to bestbuy.com but lists higher prices than those they would actually find online.” That was a marketing disaster waiting to happen, and I personally would have put that far higher on the list. For someone to actively commission this mock-site is beyond words. How else do they screw their customers?

46. Johnson & Johnson throw a hissy fit at the Red Cross for infringement of its trademarked red cross

Here, J&J’s PR team definitely could have spent a bit longer doing their homework and evaluating how to best put a positive twist, some sort of partnership with the Red Cross rather than getting all uppity about the international symbol of rescue, safety and health being used on First Aid Kits.

51. Apple threatens to sue a 9 year old for sending ideas

Here, good ol’ AAPL could have taken a kinder approach to responding to this child. After the public uproar, the little girl received an apology for the otherwise formal and harsh response from the legal department.

58. Taco Bell “It doesn’t pretend to be mexican food”

It doesn’t pretend to be edible either, does it?

59. Radiohead “In Rainbows” available freely

Fortune gets snipey about it, saying Radiohead will follow shortly with an album called “In Debt”, but TUAW echoes my thoughts – Fortune is utterly wrong in its calculation. Only the labels have been starved from their fat paychecks in this deal, with Radiohead clearing over twice what it usually would on an album.

65. Verizon Wireless realises it’s not God

Verizon Wireless attempts to stop messages from a Pro-Choice American association to its own opted-in subscribers, but gets overruled. Good. Mobile carriers are facilitators of communication, not a censorship office.

70. Circuit City shoots itself in the food badly

In a cost-cutting exercise, Circuit City shows 3,400 of its best employees the door. Nobody ever taught these guys about the 80/20 rule where a few of your employees either make up most of your sales or, at least, serve as positive motivators for the rest of the team.

Vero’s list of top dumbest moments of 2007

1. Twitter claiming upgrades every time it went down.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, I love their approach and style, and while I’ve never met the team face to face, they all seem like a bunch of people I’d love to work with.

However, when your community is made up of the cream of the crop of early adopters, you can’t take ’em for a ride, or they’ll head over to The Next Big Thing. So Twitter, in the future, a bit more honesty and transparency would be very welcome when you’re flippin’ us the bird.

2. Facebook Beacon launches without asking users to opt in first.

This was a fundamentally stupid mistake. There’s a fine line between giving users useful services and features, and being invasive 1984-stylee!

I find it shocking that anyone thought they were doing users a service by opting us all in by default. Coming from an email marketing background, I appreciate how difficult it is to convince users to opt-in of their own accord, but sharing this much information without our explicit permission is downright disgusting. As one of the articles on this topic said, what if I was buying a book called “Coping with AIDS”? It’s not all about purple scarves and ruined Christmas surprises, it’s personal lives that could be ruined by it.

Thankfully, Facebook did well in listening to feedback and sorting the situation as quickly as possible.

3. Apple plays hard balls over iPhone in the UK, gets fewer sales

Against any past mobile culture in the UK, Apple chooses to charge a significant amount for the iPhone regardless of the contract it is purchased on. The Register comments on the tumbleweeds rolling by on launch night. Brits and Europeans aren’t blinded enough by Apple to fall head over heels when the deal isn’t good enough.

Hopefully, Apple will shape up to the culture in the next round of iPhones.

4. A few idiots rob the blogosphere from Kathy Sierra’s writing and insight.

I still haven’t forgiven the mean kids who’ve caused Kathy to stop blogging. It may have felt like a funny joke at the time, but their impact is greater than they realise. Her style was unique and enlightening for people in my area of work. It may have been 9 months now since Kathy’s stopped writing but her words still carry.

What are the dumbest business moments of 2007 in your eyes?

2 thoughts on “2007's dumbest moments in business according to Fortune (and me)

  1. Bimble

    surprised that BT didn’t make it into your own person list;

    British Telecom, taking customer money after; 1)saying that they wouldn’t, 2)not mentioning that they had.

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