The digital marketing record books are filled with stories of brands that got it wrong, brands that accidentally got it right and some that just missed the mark. While some mistakes lead to unexpected benefits, others have the potential to lead to the demise of brands and utter failure.
While concerning in some regards, there is an upside to the public failure of others, especially in marketing. As a digital marketer, you have the ability to study and learn from the mistakes of others. Take a look at the marketing failures in the examples below, along with information on how to avoid them in the future.
Failure to Clearly Communicate
Just last week, #nomakeupselfie was trending across the United Kingdom raising over $13 million for Cancer Research UK. Marketing success? No: Marketing accident.
What happened? As part of a separate campaign, when users texted a selfie along with the word BEAT to the number 70099, a donation was made to cancer research. Simple, right? Maybe not. There were two unexpected results.
First, as a culture, we’re used to using the word “DONATE” to make a text donation. When this happened, a donation was made to UNICEF instead of Cancer Research UK.
The second error? Auto correct. In this situation, when phones autocorrected “BEAT” to “BEAR” the money went to the World Wildlife Federation and texters were thanked for their interest in adopting polar bears.
The downfall? Because of a lack of clarity, Cancer Research UK lost a tremendous amount in potential donations and texters who thought they were doing a good deed by sending selfies were charged when the campaign was handled incorrectly.
The Case of Unexpected Fame
In another case of marketing gone wrong, a world-wide player was found to be in error. Wendy’s, a global fast food restaurant chain, created a contest in 2013 to promote their new product line: flat bread sandwiches. To participate, fans were asked to take photos of their meals and to tweet them to Wendy’s corporate account using #twEATfor1K. Those who completed the task were entered into a pool to win $1,000.
The mistake? Proper grammar. In keeping with company brand standards, marketers used @Wendy’s in their materials. Those familiar with Twitter understand that hashtags cut off anything after a space or apostrophe, meaning @Wendy (Wendy Peters of Calgary) received thousands upon thousands of photos of strangers eating sandwiches.
While the mistake was remedied as Ms. Peters agreed to loan Wendy’s the use of her Twitter handle for the duration of the contest, this could have gone terribly wrong. Once again, one small mistake detracted from the potential landslide success of a marketing campaign.
The Need for Clarity
Clarity cannot be understated. This is especially true in a culture that lives and communicates in 130 phrases and social media clips that are shared virally. The ability to provide a detailed explanation is nearly impossible online.
As a digital marketer, this should matter. Regardless of your client—whether you’re trying to promote a brand’s new payroll service and its capabilities to a niche market or trying to raise money for a good cause—if the details of your campaign are not clear, the potential for impact will decrease greatly.
Instead, keep all communications and promotions simple. If what you’re asking users to do cannot be digested in a few seconds, it’s probably too much. Be sure you’re familiar with social media standards and enlist the help of a focus group. If something is misunderstood, fix it before it goes public.
In marketing, clarity reigns supreme. Without it, the potential for failure is high. Think viral, but act with traditional marketing standards in mind at all times.
Published: April 7, 2014