Business Nightmares with Evan Davis: New Series on BBC2

Business Nightmares with Evan Davis, made in partnership with The Open University, tells the stories of the world’s most momentous business disasters. The series charts how these disasters came about, the damage caused and the all-important lessons to be learned. 

The three-part series examines the nightmares that can engulf a business in three crucial areas. In the first episode, Evan lifts the lid on some of the fundamental errors in product design and manufacture; followed by the mistakes that can be made in marketing and public relations in the second episode with the final episode looking at mistakes in strategic decision-making.

Clever risk-taking is often at the heart of great business triumphs but these are the salutary tales of times when risks did not always pay off. The results were a fall in share prices, tarnished reputations and demands for those in charge to take responsibility.  Each episode tackles a different type of business disaster that has affected a well-known brand, including how ill-conceived marketing ideas can offend loyal customers, how bad customer service can make national headlines, how catastrophic mergers can endanger long-established brands and why some products – from a diverse range of household-name brands – should never make it to market.

From the spectacular consumer backlash towards ‘New Coke’ to Persil’s clothes-destroying washing powder and Apple’s awkward handling of a minor defect in the iPhone4, to Sir Freddie Laker’s over-hasty expansion of his fledgling airline, this series not only documents what happened but also provides an insight from the people who made those decisions, dealt with the fall out and how some of these companies managed to bounce back after the nightmare struck.

Business Nightmares goes beyond the anecdotes and the headlines and takes an in-depth analytical look at these dramatic and illuminating stories. First-hand accounts from company insiders, often including the people who themselves took the fateful decisions, reveal the detail behind these stories and explain just how much was at stake.

Focussing not just on what happened, but why it happened, some leading lights from the business world examine the consequences and highlight the important lessons from the carnage. They are Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur and inventor Sir James Dyson, Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton, management trouble-shooter Sir Gerry Robinson, CEO of global advertising group WPP Sir Martin Sorrell, and PR guru Mark Borkowski.

TX: Monday 9th May, BBC Two @ 8pm

Evan Davis uncovers the scarcely believable inside stories of how some of the world’s most successful businesses have made monumental mistakes. With top-flight British business leaders, including Sir Richard Branson, Sir James Dyson and Rita Clifton, Evan reveals how product design and manufacture can go horribly wrong, leaving customers in revolt and companies in crisis. Extraordinary errors include the story of how Coca-Cola bosses decided to stop producing the world’s favourite soft drink and replace it with ‘New Coke’; how Unilever came to launch Persil Power, a detergent so powerful that tests showed it shredded consumers’ clothes; and why the original Mini was priced too low. Evan extracts invaluable lessons from each misadventure in this riveting guide to what not to do in business. 

TX: Monday 16th May, BBC Two @ 8pm

Evan Davis uncovers the astonishing inside stories of how some of the world’s most successful businesses have made monumental mistakes. With British business leaders, including Sir Richard Branson, Sir Martin Sorrell and Rita Clifton, Evan reveals how marketing and publicity plans can turn from clever ideas into commercial catastrophes. Company insiders give their own accounts of these very public blunders, including how best-selling soft drink Sunny Delight hit the headlines and fell from favour; why there was such a backlash to a blip in Apple’s usually faultless PR handling; and how Gerald Ratner managed to topple his jewellery empire with a few careless comments. Evan extracts universal lessons from each exceptional error in this essential guide to what not to do in business.

TX: Thursday 19th May, BBC Two @ 8pm

Evan Davis uncovers the inside stories of mistakes that triggered some of the business world’s most spectacular falls from grace. With top British business leaders including Sir Martin Sorrell, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Gerry Robinson, Evan analyses deals that spelled disaster, and projects that backfired. Executives reveal what it was like to be at the heart of corporate calamities such as Sir Freddie Laker’s audacious but ill-fated bid to take on the big airlines;, the sportswear website that became the archetypal dotcom disaster; and one of the biggest business blunders of all time – the Royal Bank of Scotland’s takeover of Dutch bank ABN-AMRO.  From each extraordinary error, Evan distils a vital strategic lesson, offering his essential guide to what not to do in business.

So tune in to BBC2 from 8pm on Monday 9th May to see the first in the series of Evan Davis’ Business Nightmares.

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