Everybody's heard the saying about people who don't learn from past mistakes; they're doomed to repeat them, right? Yes, and this applies in lots of situations, including marketing. Unfortunately, marketers learn even slower than the general public, so they've been wallowing in the same researching muck for decades.
This is actually pretty ironic, since marketing is all about promoting products people want or need (ideally). I think that's the only reason people have responded to some pretty poor marketing blunders. However, the most awful mistakes usually don't turn out well, and when they're done by "reputable" companies, they deserve a closer look, if for no other reason than to laugh and say, "What were they thinking?!"
The worst one I can think of at the moment is New Coke. In the mid-80's Coca-Cola was going through a bit of an identity crisis, and Pepsi-Cola capitalized on it, grabbing a huge chunk of what had been Coke's dominant market position. In an attempt to regain it's stake as #1, the Coke executive team decided to make a drastic move and change the formula!
This was all based on the research they'd done that said that people preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi. The answer was obvious after they discovered this hidden truth! Or maybe they just didn't dig deep enough. Had they focused less on Pepsi, and more on Coke's unique nature as a brand, they would have discovered that their power was in their own flavor, not their competitor's.
I could write more, but I think I'll save it for a future post. The point is: it's not enough to do "research;" you need to do the RIGHT research, which should always focus on your own brand and its unique place in the market. If you focus on your competitors too much, you run the risk of turning your brand into a copycat product, which will get you nowhere in the long run.