Major Marketing Fails: When Your Advertisements Are Doing More Harm Than Good

People don't hate advertising. In fact, when done well, they love it! Just consider the millions who watch the Super Bowl just to see the great commercials. Companies that truly nail it with advertising (think Budweiser, Nike, Geico, and Dos Equis, creators of the most interesting man in the world) are adored. People go to YouTube just to watch their commercials over and over again.

Marketers and advertisers have more tools and solutions at their disposal than ever before. Big data, marketing automation tools, and the ability to personalize ads and messages are powerful, but when used the wrong way, at the wrong time, or to the wrong people, those powers quickly become powerfully harmful to your brand's reputation. The biggest marketing fails are those ads that are intrusive, annoying, distracting, irrelevant, or worst of all, offensive. What are the biggest marketing/advertising pitfalls to steer clear of?

Marketing Fails in Online Advertising

A well-placed, convenient ad at the right time is actually something of a customer service. Think how convenient it is when you're shopping for "dot matrix printers" or "ERP software" and Google AdWords delivers precisely what you need. Well-placed ads to the right target audience can save them time and effort. But online advertising done wrong is that which is intrusive, high-impact, distracting, or irrelevant. When visitors come to your page to view content, do you really think they appreciate the entire page being covered with a popup ad, or a banner ad so intrusive that they can't read half the content?

These are the most annoying online advertising fails that evoke anything from annoyance to anger, none of which makes them want to buy from you. Use marketing automation tools to be sure you're delivering messages customers actually want, and do so in a low-impact, friendly, helpful way. Let's do away with the spammy in-your-face advertising.

Marketing Fails in Traditional Advertising

Stupid commercials aren't cutting it anymore. There was a time that your TV audience was held hostage to your messages, assuming they wanted to see their favorite shows, but the DVR has done away with that. HTC managed to alienate a large chunk of their potential customer base by issuing an ad that poked fun at the intellect of their customers. The ad was promptly pulled, of course, but the damage was done.

The list of things people find offensive these days is incredibly long and growing at a breakneck pace. Still, the savvy marketer can find ways to tug at heartstrings, evoke laughter, and deliver a memorable experience without tipping the applecart of controversy. Think about the brilliant commercials we literally beg to see: Jake from State Farm, Proctor & Gamble's "Thank You Mom" ads paying tribute to the moms behind Olympic athletes, and the Old Spice Smell Like a Man campaign that featured a gentleman women wanted and men wanted to be.

It doesn't have to be a TV commercial to be an epic fail with traditional advertising. One Volkswagen dealer put a QR code on a billboard by a busy highway. What were they thinking? Who knows? Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries due to passersby trying to climb the billboard to scan the code, but there were also no reports of the dealership getting any new leads or customers from the ad, either. Fail.

Marketing Fails in Email Marketing

Marketing automation tools There is a time and a place for QR codes. Billboards aren't it.

Perhaps the greatest snafu in email marketing is the dreaded, "Dear Mr. Sandra Jones" or, worse, "Dear Terminator1980". Both of those are examples of marketing automation tools used without any thought to data governance, data cleansing, or a double-check by human eyes. Instead of serving to personalize your email marketing and build a rapport with your leads and customers, it proves you have no idea who they are, what they need, or how to deliver products they want.

Marketing Fails in Social Marketing

Perhaps no fail is as bad as one with social marketing, because the backlash is speedy and generally brutal. Some social fails are just due to an oversight. For example, singer Susan Boyle's PR team meant no harm when they developed the hashtag campaign #susanalbumparty (which practically no one read as "Susan Album Party"). Others are simply poorly timed, such as #ILoveWalgreens which triggered no controversy, but had the distinguished dishonor of being the first hashtag purchased by a company. Since it was new, people were mistrustful of the word "promoted" in their #ILoveWalgreens tweets.

Then there was the #McDStories, which devolved rapidly into a McDonalds bashing session -- not exactly what the marketing folks were aiming for. It's always best to get as many eyes, opinions, backgrounds, and viewpoints involved in a social marketing campaign as possible to keep from stepping into one of these marketing quagmires.

Many marketing fails can be eliminated if you have the right marketing automation tools and know how to use those tools to derive the right marketing metrics. The right information helps you understand your target audiences so you can craft messages that resonate with them in a positive way.

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