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Fubar Branding: How to turn your Brand Story into a Cautionary Tale

Welcome back to another installment of Fubar Branding, where we help you destroy your brand with style! Today, we're diving into the world of brand messaging and storytelling. You might think crafting a compelling brand story is crucial for success, but we're here to show you how to turn your brand story into a cautionary tale nobody wants to follow. So, are you ready to make those disastrous mistakes and become the talk of the town? Let's go!

Confusion is key: Embrace the power of inconsistency

If there's one thing that customers love, it's being confused about what your brand stands for. In the immortal words of branding expert Al Ries, "A confused mind always says no." So, why not give your customers a chance to say no by sending mixed messages and constantly changing your brand story?

To achieve this, create multiple versions of your brand story, each contradicting the other. Then, update your messaging on a whim, and make sure your employees have no idea what they're promoting. That way, your customers will be so baffled that they'll have no choice but to take their business elsewhere. Success!

And don't trust us! Just learn from the best! Who can forget the glorious disaster that was New Coke? Back in 1985, Coca-Cola decided to jazz things up by revamping their classic formula. What could go wrong, right? Wrong! Loyal fans were left scratching their heads, wondering why on earth their favorite drink was suddenly different.

Coca-Cola's messaging became a circus, with ads swinging between promoting the new formula and clinging to the old taste. The result? Sales tanked, and Coke's reputation nosedived. Within months, they scrambled to reintroduce the original recipe as "Coca-Cola Classic." New Coke now lives in infamy as a hilarious reminder of what happens when a brand dabbles in the art of confusion.

Alienating your target audience: The art of offending

As renowned branding specialist Seth Godin once said, "People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic." Well, we say forget the magic and focus on the dark arts of alienating your target audience. Don't just tell a story; tell a story that offends and repulses your customers.

To excel at this, take a page from the book of brands that failed spectacularly by creating controversial ad campaigns, using insensitive language, or taking a stand on divisive issues that will drive customers away. 

The infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad is a perfect example of ignorance in style! In 2017, Pepsi served up a piping hot plate of cringe when they featured Kendall Jenner magically solving all the world's problems with a can of Pepsi. You know, because nothing says social justice like soda pop.

The backlash was swift, as people accused Pepsi of being more tone-deaf than a kazoo orchestra. The ad was yanked after just one day, and Pepsi issued an apology for turning activism into a marketing ploy. So, remember, if you want to alienate your audience and offend just about everyone, this is the way to go!

Myths about fact-checking: the power of inaccuracy

Who needs accuracy and truthfulness when you can just make stuff up? As the great philosopher and branding guru Confucius once said, "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." So, embrace your ignorance and fill your brand story with inaccuracies, falsehoods, and outright lies.

To achieve this, exaggerate your accomplishments, take credit for other people's work, and create a backstory that would make even the most skilled fiction writers blush. Remember, the more outlandish and unbelievable your brand story, the faster it will become a cautionary tale.

Ah, the majestic world of "alternative facts" – and who better to learn from than the infamous Theranos? In the early 2000s, Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, a health technology company that claimed to revolutionize blood testing by needing only a drop of blood for multiple tests. Talk about a game-changer, right?

Well, as it turned out, the company was more fiction than fact. The technology didn't work as advertised, and the company's claims were more like a mirage in the desert. Finally, the truth came crashing down, leading to a whirlwind of lawsuits, fines, and criminal charges. Holmes went from being hailed as the next Steve Jobs to a cautionary tale about the perils of playing fast and loose with the truth. So, if you want your brand to follow in these infamous footsteps, remember: inaccuracy is your friend!

Slay Your Brand Story with Jargon and Buzzwords

Nothing says "we don't know what we're talking about," quite like excessive use of jargon and buzzwords. So, why not kill your brand story by filling it with confusing and meaningless phrases that will leave your audience scratching their heads?

Throw around terms like "synergy," "paradigm shift," and "disruptive innovation" with reckless abandon. It doesn't matter if they make sense or not as long as they sound impressive. Remember what branding expert Marty Neumeier said, "A brand is not what you say it is. It's what they say it is." Well, let's give them something to talk about!

And here, the tale of Quibi, the short-form streaming service, comes to mind. The startup that drowned in a sea of jargon and buzzwords. Founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, Quibi was a mobile-focused platform offering "quick bites" of content, each lasting no more than ten minutes. The service was supposed to revolutionize the way we consume content, tapping into the "on-the-go" lifestyle of the modern consumer.

But Quibi's messaging was a mess. They threw around phrases like "turnstyle technology" and "snackable content" without ever really clarifying what made them different or worth the subscription price. As a result, the audience was left baffled and uninterested, and Quibi ultimately folded after just six months of operation, burning through nearly $2 billion in funding. So, if you want to slay your brand story like Quibi, remember: jargon and buzzwords are the weapons of choice!

Me, Myself, and I: The Art of Narcissistic Storytelling

Forget about your customers; your brand story should be all about you! Make sure to focus exclusively on your achievements, your journey, and your needs. After all, why should customers care about how your brand can benefit them when they can hear about your latest vacation or your CEO's golf handicap?

Take inspiration from brands that have failed miserably by making their brand story all about themselves, completely disregarding their customers' wants and needs. As marketing mastermind David Ogilvy once said, "The customer is not a moron; she is your wife." Well, we say, treat your customers like distant relatives you only see at family reunions: acknowledge their existence, but make sure to keep the focus on you.

Ah, the legendary failure of the Fyre Festival comes to mind when we think of narcissistic storytelling. Founded by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, Fyre Festival was supposed to be the ultimate luxury music festival experience on a private island in the Bahamas. The duo focused their marketing efforts on their glamorous lifestyles, showcasing luxury villas, yachts, and celebrity influencers. It was all about the founders and their extravagant, jet-setting lives.

As it turned out, the festival was a disaster. Attendees arrived to find inadequate infrastructure, a lack of food and water, and no luxury accommodations. Moreover, the entire event was a glaring example of narcissistic storytelling, as the founders focused on promoting their image rather than delivering a quality customer experience. In the end, McFarland faced fraud charges, and the Fyre Festival became a cautionary tale of how not to tell your brand story. So, if you're aiming for infamy, go all in on the "me, myself, and I" approach!


Congratulations! You've reached the end of another Fubar Branding article, where we've guided you through the process of turning your brand story into a cautionary tale. By embracing confusion, alienating your audience, disregarding accuracy, overusing jargon, and focusing on yourself, you're well on your way to destroying your brand with panache.

Remember, we're not here to help you create a successful brand but to help you ruin it with humor and style. So, stay tuned for more tips and tricks on sabotaging your brand, and feel free to share your cautionary tales with us. Happy branding!

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