Known uses of this trope:
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- Toyota since February 2010, at least in America, with the, "We fixed the engine screw-up that was killing people," message.
- Honda took a page from Domino's (see below) regarding their bread-and-butter Civic compact. The current design, introduced in 2011, was panned critically and commercially, with even Consumer Reports taking the Civic off of the recommended list, where it was for ages. Honda admitted that the recession spooked them into thinking that cheap = good, in an era when the competition was stepping up their game. Honda's response was to initiate a emergency refresh for the 2013 model year to redesign the interior (the main source of the criticism), and to produce a TV ad called "Things Can Always Be Better" to admit that they whiffed.
- British Leyland tried this once when they had a reputation for making lousy vehicles. It didn't work and they went bust.
- General Motors tried this in The '80s with their "This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile" campaign. The goal was to change the old and stuffy image of the brand. The problem was that Oldsmobile already had a good reputation among the children of Oldsmobile owners before the campaign. Prospective buyers thought that they'd changed for the worse.
- The Toyota Corolla, which has always had a reputation as Boring Yet Practical.
- Skoda, the Czech car company, used to have a reputation for making memetically bad cars in the UK during the Cold War. Since then they have been taken over by VW and now make cars of similar quality (often pretty much the same cars, in fact) but considerably cheaper. They were able to make a comeback in the UK with these cars by an advert campaign that acknowledged their former reputation and poked fun at it, for example with characters who refused to believe a car was a Skoda; the campaign was called "It's a Skoda. Honest." Or in the Dutch speaking world: a whole page dedicated to showing every older model of Skoda and in the middle the slogan "Skoda: no more laughing".
- When Hyundai reentered the American market after addressing safety concerns, they aired a commercial showing a car driving through the countryside while an announcer described the car without mentioning the company, until the last line of the ad, which ended like with the words "...with the new Scoupe from Hyundai...yes, Hyundai."
- VW attempted this after the Dielselgate scandalin 2015. For example, they dropped the iconic 'Das Auto'.
- Buick took a page from Oldsmobile but went up a notch when they started the "That isn't a Buick" campaign, based on the reputation of it being your grandfather's car.
Food & Drink
- Domino's Pizza, formerly known as the cheap but cardboardy brand, completely overhauled their advertising in 2010, stressing that, basically, "yeah, our pizza sucked, but we're gonna do better from now on." One of its commercials includes a dramatic reading of complaints about the quality of its pizza, followed by claims that they're changing how they make the stuff. Surprisingly, this has proven rather successful; the new pizza is definitely seen as better than the bulk of the competition. They're doing the same with their cheesy bread. Stephen Colbert named Domino's Alpha Dog of the Week for boldly telling their customers how utterly awful their own product was, particularly since they had been extolling the same product's virtues in their previous marketing campaign.
- The Coca-Cola/New Coke/Coke Classic saga. Basically, Coca-Cola tried changing its formula in the '80s and rebranded itself "New Coke" to distinguish it. It failed miserably, with people universally panning the taste, and in a few months, they went back to the old formula, now called "Coke Classic" to assure customers it was the same product they had always loved and admitting they had messed up with New Coke.
- Bailey's are trying to rebrand, to lose their fusty, old-fashioned image. As they were trying so hard to prove that they Don't Suck Any More, they were hesitant to accept a request from The Mighty Boosh for a character called Old Gregg to be portrayed drinking Bailey's, since they imagined he would probably be an aging man. They eventually allowed the usage when they were informed that Old Gregg was, in fact, a transsexual man-fish, which is apparently much more in line with the company's new target market.
- The Australian/New Zealand energy drink "Mother" was hideously unpopular due to its horrid taste. After it was re-formulated, an extensive marketing campaign was launched, including new cans that stated (literally) "Tastes NOTHING like the old one!" and TV ads depicting commandos beating up the people responsible for the taste of the old formula.
- There was once a Sprite commercial brandishing their new logo design and new taste... except at the end of the commercial was a cue card and the announcer very quickly stating "Now tastes more like 7-Up!". It was very quickly pulled off the air after someone at Coca-Cola must have realized the implications of admitting that the competition is better and something you're striving to be like.
- Taco Bell has begun trying this in the wake of the release of a study about just what quality their meat really is.
- Hardee's/Carl's Jr when they invented the Thickburger. It was widely imitated.
- Foster Farms tried this out of desperation after their 2013 salmonella debacle, taking out full page ads in newspapers to ensure customers that their meat wouldn't make them sick anymore.
- Iceland, a British grocery chain, has a section of its website critical of Bill Grimsey, who was Chairman of the company during the worst period in its history.
- In 2014, after getting a reputation for poor service, Friendly's Restaurant advertized basically that "We haven't always lived up to our name, but from now on...!"
- McDonald's seems to be doing this in 2015, though a lot of it is actually more "We never really sucked, it's just you believed a lot of crap and lies about us. Here's why they're not true."
- Melbourne radio station Triple M started out as a rock station, but got steadily more pop-oriented in The Noughties. In 2010, its playlists removed some of the lighter, poppier fare, and older and harder rock "classics" got more rotation. The station's advertisements during this period followed the trope exactly. It's still quite mainstream, though.
- K-Rock in New York went through an almost identical period: after losing Howard Stern but later picking up Opie And Anthony, someone got the bright idea to switch formats (with cryptic advertisements that sounded more like horror-movie scare warnings) to all-talk radio. Ratings tanked, largely due to constantly shifting programs/schedules and little coherence between them aside from "radio talk show." They later reverted to a rock format, with sweepers stating "The Rock Is Back". Apparently it wasn't back enough, as they later switched AGAIN to "92.3 Now", a Top 40 format.
- History repeated itself few years later. NYC rock station WRXP was sold to Merlin Media and switched to an "FM News" format that failed miserably. The station flipped back to rock after a year and change, running promos boasting that "Alternative is back" and poking fun at the news format's failure. Then, just a few months later, the station was sold again - to CBS, who turned it into a simulcast of AM sports-talk station WFAN.
- Southern Ontario station Q107, for a while, played bumpers advertising that their commercials aren't as long as they used to be, before nearly every commercial break.
- Nintendo did this twice during the transition between the Nintendo GameCube and the Wii:
- Super Mario Sunshine, while not considered a bad game, got a mixed reception among fans of the Mario series, so when Nintendo announced Super Mario Galaxy, it was labeled by them as "the true successor to Super Mario 64".
- In another press conference, the developers advertised The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as the true sequel/successor to Ocarina of Time, after the (at the time) scarce fan support of Wind Waker and Majora's Mask.
- A video game magazine once said that Star Wars video games were "back" and got a LucasArts employee to admit in an interview that there had been a time period during which Star Wars games had been sub-par.
- This was likely behind the Two Worlds developers mocking Two Worlds and acknowledging its criticisms before the release of Two Worlds II. See here for the video on YouTube
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- After the Christmas Rushed, QA disaster that was Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Sega realized how their rushing the game had destroyed the quality and spent a lot of the campaign leading up to Sonic Unleashed assuring the fans that they learned their lesson. As later games show, they kinda forgot this lesson.
- From the lead up to Sonic 4 onwards, Sonic Team's commercials have focused on assuring fans (or at the very least, those who lapsed from the fandom) that their games are no longer like their much maligned titles from the PlayStation 2 era onwards: for example, the trailer for Sonic Generations includes a retrospective of Sonic games since the original Sonic the Hedgehog...and before the clip reaches Sonic Heroes (where the decline is often cited to have begun) we get a long shot of Sonic looking quite exasperated. Similarly, in the actual game, the level for the 2006 game is fittingly Crisis City.
- A milder example: after both of the original Sonic Boom games flopped, a promotion for the sequel on the series' official Tumblr account includes the tag "it's going to be way better than the first one".
- Sega in general appears to be taking this angle after their abysmal performance the past couple years, especially concerning Aliens: Colonial Marines and Sonic Boom. They say that they've realized how horrible their products have been as of late and that the poor quality of their products has destroyed the trust and weight of their name and that moving forwards, they'll be trying to earn back that trust. Only time will tell if they were speaking the truth...
- A commercial for the Atari 5200 actually lampooned their infamous Atari 2600 Pac-Man. This was because the ColecoVision had an expansion module available that could play Atari 2600 games, and Atari was discouraging people from the competition.
- The ad Tagline for Dead or Alive 5 is "I'm a Fighter", which ties in with Team Ninja's campaign to get the Fighting Game Community to take DOA seriously and not for it to be seen as a purely casual Fanservice-fest. In some ways, this succeeded (the fighting gameplay has been recognized as deeper and more strategic than the series has possibly seen in its entire history with improved wall, movement, combo, and environmental interaction mechanics) and in other ways they may have undermined that (there is a very large catalog of Downloadable Content costumes and they are almost entirely for their female characters, new features like sweat and dirt adhesion also give the game several fanservice qualities it never had before 5).
- "Under New Management" signs, and the inverse "Back under Original Management/Owner".
- BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, tried to invoke this, putting out full-page ads stating that they care about the environment and they're doing their absolute besty-best to clean up the 2010 Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico (but apparently had money leftover for full-page ads about it), which became bigger than the Exxon-Valdez disaster in the late '80s.note
- Phillip Morris and their We Care-style ads that ran during the period of time when Congress was enacting new anti-smoking laws and regulations. Most said something to the effect of "smoking these things will kill you, so read this medical data and buy snus instead, please."
- Almost every single advertisement from Icelandic banks after they collapsed in 2008, nearly bankrupting the country.
- Irish Rail company Iarnrod Eireann had a "We're aware we suck and we're actively working on the suck problem"-type campaign with their slogan, "Getting there". Very similar to British Rail's 1980s slogan "We're getting there".
- Cartoon Network tried this approach when promoting its CNReal programming block, saying "We're not just cartoons anymore." It apparently didn't occur to them that there need to be a large volume of complaints in the first place for this to work. CNReal flopped horribly, and while the network does still go for live-action, they're now just treating it as just another program.
- Microsoft's "The Browser You Loved To Hate" Internet Explorer campaign. Also, their campaign with the Office 97 dinosaurs also qualifies, though in a very different way. They weren't trying to convince people to give a formerly-notorious product a new chance; they were actually trying to CONVINCE the public that '97 sucked. Microsoft's biggest problem selling Office 2000/XP was that people felt their current versions of Office were good enough and were standing pat rather than pay as much as $300 for the upgrade.
- PG&E started a campaign of this nature after the San Bruno gasoline explosion.
- A variation in one ad that had a mother unpacking a grocery bag and producing a bottle of Listerine, causing all her children to flee from its horrible taste. "Relax," she explains, "it's new Less Intense!"
- There's a Sears commercial in which a woman is continually asked where she got her clothes, and each time responds "Sears" with a little bit more confidence as she learns that no one will mock her for clothes shopping at Sears.
- J.C. Penney suffered a backlash from its formerly loyal customers after they brought in a new CEO in 2011 and began selling clothes from hip, new brands aimed at attracting the younger crowd (like T-shirts you'd expect to find at Hot Topic, for starters). Their sales plummeted. As a result the new CEO was fired, the old CEO was brought back, and an ad was released promising that the changes had been reversed, saying "We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. Come back to J.C. Penney, we'd love to see you."
- NBC's reveal trailer for season 3 of Heroes opened with what was essentially an apology for season 2 and claiming that the viewers from Comic Con who were disappointed in S2 thought it was better.
- The deregulation of the Swedish railroad system has not been a painless affair, and what with one thing and the other, it's reached the point where train travel in the winter means there will be hideous delays — assuming the departure isn't cancelled outright.note It got to the point where SJ (the largest of the passenger train operators) ran ads that had SJ employees go to absurd lengths to avoid telling people where they worked, ending with a tag that essentially boiled down to "We're sorry! We'll do better! We Don't Suck Anymore!"
- Most people in the UK hated the Go Compare adverts featuring the "Go Compare" song. After around a year or so (maybe more) of generally not realising the public hated their adverts, they started creating adverts in which the Go Compare singer is punished in numerous ways. They seem to have stopped now, but the character no longer sings, instead being portrayed as more meek and normal. It hasn't stopped the adverts being played excessively on TV. Later commercials have the singer pitching new ideas on how to advertise Go Compare, which are all really bad. The character then faded into the background of the Llandofsavingmoneyandgettingtherightdealgogogompare ads, which initially showed him as driving the tour bus to the Welsh village, before both he and the bus disappeared from the campaign. In 2015, they rode the backlash-to-the-backlash (many people having found the "punishing" ads mean-spirited), portraying the singer's triumphant return playing to a packed concert hall of fans.
- Ads for the ABC sitcom The Neighbors have taken to saying things like, "Critics are changing their minds about The Neighbors!"
- Sea World released PR ads after they finally decided to end their orca breeding program, highlighting that they can't release their orcas into the wild because they wouldn't survive, but that they're phasing out performances and that this will be their last captive generation of orcas. They cite "changing times" and people's changing attitudes toward orcas, though really it was because ticket sales had plummeted after the tell-all documentary Black Fish was released.
- Verizon Wireless' "Can you hear me now?" campaign was a subtle version of this: they'd received criticism over less-than-stellar network quality, so their commercials showed a Verizon employee testing their upgraded network by going to various improbable places and asking if the person on the other end of the phone could hear him. The last line of the commercial was always, "...Good.", thus emphasizing that it was, indeed, working better than it used to.
- Subtly done with advertisements for the UK's newly separate TSB Bank, part of LloydsTSB between 1999 and 2013. Their first advert declared "TSB isn't like other big banks", and their 2016 Partnership campaign has the slogan "TSB Partners are here to help, not just sell you stuff". While the "other big banks" are not named, Lloyds was fined a record amount for high pressure sales tactics just as TSB was splitting off.
- After Wells Fargo Bank got caught making fake accounts, they ran ads essentially saying "We don't defraud customers anymore."
- This was parodied on The Simpsons. In the 1999 episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", a TV screen shows a slightly surreal ad in which a car pulls up at a service station somewhere in the middle of the desert. Then the doors of the car open, and loud rock music blasts as a group of....well, whores start shimmying and vamping for the camera. Only then does the ad reveal that one of the girls is wearing a crucifix, and a lascivious male announcer states: "The Catholic Church. We've made a few...changes." It's then cut immediately to the Simpsons' living room, where Lisa notes: "These Super Bowl ads get weirder every year." In Real Life, the Catholic Church actually has aired ads telling people that they should come back, making it a case of Truth in Television.