Some marketing campaigns are more successful than others. You might be unhappy with an ad that leaves consumers scratching their heads or that doesn’t make your product very memorable. You may want to take a big chance – roll the dice on a new campaign that will cement your place in consumers’ minds and hearts. As we are bombarded by more and more images, slogans, and ads, companies are having to be increasingly creative in making a lasting impression.
Be careful, though! It’s possible not to just miss the mark, but to miss the target altogether and end up with a full-blown marketing catastrophe. Here are a few ways in which marketing can be a huge flop – and more importantly, what you can learn from the failures of others.
- Unintended Consequences. How certain was Todd Davis, CEO of Lifelock, that his company could protect the financial security and identities of its users? Certain enough that he posted his social security number on the company’s website and even on billboards. How big was the fail? By last count, Davis’ identity has been stolen at least thirteen times, and to add insult to injury, the Federal Trade Commission even fined Lifelock $12 million for making false claims in its advertising. Takeaway: Think your ad campaign through. Don’t set yourself up by failing to anticipate the logical outcome of your marketing strategy.
- Underestimated Cost. In the early 1990s, Pepsi developed a marketing campaign designed to boost its flagging sales in the Philippines. They printed numbers on the underside of bottle caps and ran a contest, promising to award 1 million Philippine pesos to the lucky winner with the winning number. An error in the number selection process resulted in the wrong winning number being announced – a number that had been printed on 800,000 bottle caps. A contest that was intended to have a $2 million in payouts ended up costing Pepsi over $10 million in legal fees and restitution. The moral: Run the numbers, and then run them again. Make sure you’ve accounted for all of the costs of your campaign, even if it doesn’t go the way you’ve planned.
- Inability To Control Content. Making the most of social media means that companies have to react lightning quick to comments from users who expect interaction. The trouble, though, is that when comments are live and public, you can end up with some embarrassing or inappropriate messages on your company’s page. Take Qantas Airlines as an example. Despite the fact that they’d grounded their flights due to a contract dispute, they introduced a campaign inviting customers to share their dream flight experiences. The hashtag #QantasLuxury was quickly coopted by frustrated fliers who were trying to get to a funeral or home to a pregnant partner about to deliver. If you invite the public to participate, make sure you can control the content.
- Unintentionally offensive. Motherhood – the sacred institution. It’s associated with love, warmth, caring, and … housework? Mr. Clean’s Mother’s Day advertisement prompted women with a catchy encouragement: “This Mother’s Day, get back to the job that really matters.” The photo of a woman cleaning pressed all the wrong buttons with many consumers. Make sure that the message you’re sending isn’t going to inadvertently piss your customers off. Do a little test marketing!
It’s the splashiest, most outrageous marketing campaigns that garner the most attention. Fortune does indeed favor the bold, but you need to ensure that your advertisements don’t end up costing you business. Learn from the mistakes of others.