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When Marketing Goes Wrong

Marketing is so integral to business growth and success, but what happens when your marketing fails? We've all seen snafus made by big corporate campaigns. They're cringeworthy at best and detrimental to the brand at worst. Here are our three tips on how to avoid marketing fails.

when marketing goes wrong

1) Don’t Co-Opt Social Messages

It's tempting to want to jump on a trend, especially if you're using Instagram and TikTok. However, social messages are not "trends" to capitalize on. For example, you might remember the disastrous Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner that aired briefly in 2017. In the commercial, Pepsi co-opted social activism and protest for their own marketing, attempting to share a message of peace and unity. The ad was not received well and Pepsi pulled it, issuing an apology. While the ad showed protesters, it never mentioned the cause they supported. Pepsi even went as far as giving the protestors generic peace signs in an attempt to not mention anything controversial. By avoiding any real discussions, the ad felt inauthentic. It was received as a marketing stunt rather than a genuine, sincere message.

2) Avoid Stereotypes

Avoiding stereotypes seems like simple advice, because it is. It also is necessary because companies still use stereotypes in an attempt to connect to their audience. Instead, it alienates and divides their viewers. One example of this is Huggies "The Dad Test" ad where fathers were put to the test with dirty diapers. The message was that these diapers could stand up to anything, even fathers alone with their babies without mom's supervision. This ad was poorly received. It missed the mark by insinuating that fathers are inept at taking care of their own children, as well as the problem of playing into the sexist ideas that a woman's sole purpose is to take care of her children. Sometimes when brands try to avoid stereotypes - like marketing towards men instead of women for a diaper commercial - they accidentally play right into them. One of the best ways to be inclusive in marketing is to be inclusive in your brand. Having a diverse marketing team can help point out unconscious bias we may accidentally put into our messaging.

3) Be Mindful of World Events

Most marketing teams will agree that having content scheduled a head is a must, but it is also important to be mindful of current world events in real time. If you have an ad set to launch amidst a horrible natural disaster or other event, you want to make sure the ad doesn't come across as tone-def. For example, AirBnB had a very poorly timed advertisement for water-themed homes that used headlines like "stay above water," or "live aquatic life with floating homes." The problem with these ads was that they aired as Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, leaving many homes destroyed, washed away, or lost under flooding. Ads can take months of prep work. A marketing misstep can be something as simple as the ad was scheduled and forgotten about as the team focused on the next campaign. However, you can't just "set it and forget it" when it comes to marketing. It's important to check and correct marketing ads, emails, and any communication before it gets sent out.


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