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17th September 2018

5 Ridiculous Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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At JPIMedia, great marketing is our bread and butter, and our marketing advice articles are packed with tips on getting it right. Sometimes though, it’s instructive to study how marketing goes wrong.

If you’re a small business, promoting yourself can seem fraught with danger, but the big beasts are constantly making blunders more catastrophic than anything you need worry about!

Here are 5 marketing traps and their (entertaining) consequences.

  • Giving people what they don’t want

Before a company starts marketing, it must find its niche. Spotting and filling a gap in the market takes the canny creativity that small businesses have in spades.

What this doesn’t involve is pushing a product without checking if your target audience even wants it, as rock mammoths U2 discovered when they collaborated with Apple to release their 2014 album Songs of Innocence.

500 million iTunes subscribers suddenly discovered that, without their consent, a new U2 album had been installed in their libraries and mobile devices. Hey, who wouldn’t want 11 previously unheard tracks from one of rock’s highest-selling acts delivered to their computer free of charge?

Well, as it turned out, quite a lot of people. The backlash to Bono’s unsolicited gift was overwhelming. iTunes users complained it was ‘rude’, the press called it ‘dystopian junk mail’ and even Iggy Pop delivered a public slapdown, resulting in a half-apology from the band.

To find out how to get The Edge on competitors by tailoring your marketing to what customers want, read our article on local media advertising tricks.

  • Getting down with the kids

Marketers often play on new trends to keep their campaigns fresh. However, when brands not particularly associated with the cutting-edge try to mimic a younger audience, things get cringeworthy.

Microsoft aren’t famed for their deep understanding of youth culture. They make staid, dependable products that everyone from your accountant to your dad uses, and as vital as Excel is for businesses, it hardly reeks of cool.

Which is why a certain email Microsoft sent out in 2016 caused such carnage. US college students attending an interns’ conference received an email with the subject line ‘HEY BAE INTERN <3’ promising an after-party featuring ‘hella noms’, ‘dranks’ and the chance to ‘get lit on a Monday night’ (we don’t really know what this means either).

Image result for how do you do fellow kids

After mockery ensued, Microsoft rushed out a statement apologizing for not ‘keeping with [their] values as a company’.

The lesson here is to stay natural and never force it. Avoid these gaffes with our article on marketing effectively to younger generations.

  • Hijacking current affairs

It doesn’t take a PR prodigy to see how incorporating headline news into your marketing might easily end up looking distasteful. Many companies ran successful campaigns around the World Cup and the Royal Wedding, but most news is less stage managed, and much less joyful.

There’s a basic marketing principle here: just because something is happening doesn’t mean you should use it!

Take the example of Kenneth Cole, founder of the eponymous fashion house. In February 2011, during mass protests in Egypt, Cole tweeted from the KC brand account: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online”.

We assume he put down his phone chuckling at his own wit. Yet most people didn’t see the funny side of an American fashion company using another country’s strife to promote a clothing line. A torrent of disgust quickly forced Cole into a personal apology.

This just shows that there’s almost never any need to stray into current affairs. Instead, focus on something more neutral like seasonal marketing.

  • Not doing your research

This should go without saying, but it’s best to know what you’re talking about before you launch a campaign! After all, if you can’t get the basic details of your marketing right, who’ll trust you to get your products right?

American Apparel found this out during Independence Day celebrations in 2014. Attempting to share a photo of fireworks on Tumblr, their hapless social media manager reposted a photo of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, replete with the hashtags #smoke and #clouds.

Triggering the collective trauma of the millions who watched that catastrophe unfold live on TV didn’t play well for American Apparel, and the company had to pin the blame on an ‘international social media employee born after the tragedy’.

Sensible preparation can prevent you putting your foot in it, so why not stay safe with our guide to planning your marketing?

  • Clumsy special offers

Special offers and promotions are great for drumming up new business. You’d think that marketers would always ensure they can fulfill their promises, yet companies sometimes end up red-faced after a deal backfires.

In 1992, to shift a surplus of stock, appliances brand Hoover promised customers free return flights to Europe or the USA in exchange for spending £100.

They sorely underestimated the interest this would generate, and soon enough were inundated with demands for plane tickets.

Financially, this was never going to fly, and the promotion ended in 6 years of legal battles in the small claims courts, questions in Parliament and even a kidnapped company van!

The message to take away from these botched campaigns is that marketing really doesn’t need to go so wrong. Whatever level your business is at, do some due diligence on your campaign basics, dodge controversy and make sure there’s demand for what you’re offering, and you’ll never need to worry about ending up on one of these lists!

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