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Inbound Marketing Blog

    3 Marketing Lessons Learned the Hard Way

    Posted by Jessica Bowers Hopson

    Avoid These Corporate Marketing #Fails in Your Own Promotional Efforts

    An analysis released in March by Experian Data Quality found that 42 percent of marketing executives believe bad customer data is one of the biggest hurdles to scale for successful multi-channel marketing. A smaller study published in the Harvard Business Review in September found that investment in tracking customer attitudes and behavioral patterns could yield some companies an ROI upwards of 300 percent.

    Companies that fail to pay close attention to customer data and behavior patterns not only risk losing existing customers but alienating leads who were considering forming a relationship. CRM platforms have streamlined much of this process for companies, but the effort cannot stop there. Some of the worst marketing fails in U.S. business history have been the result of miscalculating or, frankly, complete failure to anticipate customer reactions to campaigns.

    Large corporations can typically survive these types of blunders. But a small business could damage itself beyond repair doing something similar. Here are three hard marketing lessons that could have been avoided with a deeper understanding of the target audience and better market research.

    Fish & Game Fail

    A state wildlife president should be an avid outdoorsman, but should also adhere to unwritten and otherwise ethics codes. Daniel Richards didn't get the memo.

    The former California Fish & Game Commission president took a hunting trip to Idaho in February of 2012. He shot and harvested a mountain lion while there, which is legal in the state. Richards posed with the animal, smiled for the camera, and sent the pictures to a hunting publication for all to see. His actions may have been legal in Idaho and admired by other hunters, but he was the president of Fish & Game in the Golden State.

    Mountain lion hunting is illegal in California. Further, chapter 12 of the hunter education course his department specifically endorsed, covers hunter ethics. It specifically states that hunters should respect others by not displaying harvested animals to those who may be offended. The California Fish & Game Commission voted him out as president six months later. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom wrote Richards a letter stating that he respects his love of hunting mountain lions in Idaho, but those same actions were illegal back home and do not reflect the values of California.

    Richards term on the five-member board expired in January of 2013 and Governor Jerry Brown decided not to re-appoint him to the post.

    NYPD Twitter Trouble

    The New York Police Department is the largest municipal police force in the country, and also one of the most controversial. When Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, he instituted "stop-and-frisk" policies, which allowed police to stop anyone on the street at anytime without probable cause.

    It led to nearly 100,000 residents being randomly stopped by police from 2002 to 2014, according to the Washington Post, and grew animosity between citizens and police to unprecedented levels. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in October the tactic violated Constitutional rights and ordered the police department to implement several changes.

    The department has never admitted who exactly started a Twitter marketing campaign encouraging followers to use the #myNYPD hashtag and share good stories about officers in the community this past April. But it's safe to assume they no longer work for the city. The Twitterverse responded with thousands of photos and videos showing police brutality and harassment. One tweet showed a picture of a cop yanking a woman's hair with the caption "#myNYPD will detangle your hair too." A video was posted of a man screaming while police had him in an arm-bar, with the caption "Free massages from #myNYPD."

    Commissioner Bill Bratton downplayed the massive marketing failure, telling the New York Daily News he wasn't concerned about the reaction and that he "welcomes the attention."

    Dancer Disaster

    Exotic dancers know who their audience is: men. Marketing campaigns targeting new customers will typically be successful if they play to male instincts and have a little fun with direct mail promotions. But it's also a good idea to know what going on in the world elsewhere before getting too fancy.

    Scores, a Baltimore-based strip club, wanted to promote its end-of-summer luau party in 2013 by sending local business owners invites by mail. For added effect, the marketing team decided to put a little sand in every envelope to make recipients feel like they were at the beach. The fine-grained sand they used was bought from a craft store and unfortunately was mistaken for anthrax or Ricin by several individuals who opened the envelopes.

    The Baltimore Sun reported that Constellation Energy Group called 911 after discovering a "suspicious substance" in the envelopes that arrived by mail. Firefighters and police showed up and evacuated the area that the envelopes were open. The hazmat team ultimately deemed the substance benign, but word didn't spread to "several" other businesses that also called police.

    Andrew Alley, one of Scores' owners, said the club's only aim was to get people excited to come out and have a good time. But fire spokesman Ian Brennan wasn't amused. He said the department had to expend a lot of resources for something that could have been avoided.

    The moral of the story is that direct mail marketing is still highly effective. But it's best to stick to the basics of envelopes, paper inserts, and stamps.


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