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5 Lessons from the Worst Marketing Blunders!

Enjoy this guest post from Alicia Lawrence. Alicia is a content coordinator for a tech company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks. 

Marketing isn’t rocket science. All it takes is some basic common sense, a little current background on trends and a keen sense of the values and mindset of your audience.

Unfortunately, many marketing gurus often encounter pitfalls when it comes to spreading the word about their product or service. These traps can seem obvious and easy to avoid in retrospect, but that hasn’t stopped some big name enterprises from falling headfirst into them. Here are five of the worst marketing blunders you can make and what to do instead!

  1. 1.    Choosing the Wrong Company Name

Your company name is incredibly important. It will shape your entire brand and define your identity for the company’s lifetime, and should be done with care and thoughtfulness. There are classic stories of company names that have failed miserably because of small oversights – like when Chevy came out with a new car in Spain called the Nova, not realizing that the word translated to “No Go.”

Instead of choosing a name haphazardly, do as much research as you can on it! The new trend is to choose made-up words, such as Google or Boingo, or combining two words that have something to do with your product, such as MailChimp or StubHub.

  1. 2.    Offensive Humor

Consumers love a good laugh, but not when it comes at the expense of others. Many companies have alienated large audiences with jokes that don’t quite hit the mark and end up offending certain groups or everyone who comes across them. An example is the Kenneth Cole Twitter marketing promotion for their 2011 spring collection which claimed that the uproar in Cairo was actually linked to the release of their new collection. Poor move, Kenneth.

Humor doesn’t work if you’re intruding into sensitive territory. Keep your jokes light and playful and don’t risk heading into areas that aren’t fair game.

  1. 3.    Misunderstanding the Audience

In 2010, Gap tried to “update” their logo to meet their customers’ progressive desire for change and modernity. They gave up their classic, recognizable white serif font on navy background in favor of black sans serif text with a small blue chip overlapping the P in G-A-P. Not only was the design somewhat unattractive, their audience was outraged! Their customers felt like the brand was leaving them behind and trying to connect with a new generation. They didn’t take the time to understand that their target market consists of people who love classic style and aren’t interested in modern trends.

Make sure to take the effort and do the research to really know and understand your audience before you make changes that you think will appeal to them.

  1. 4.    Forgetting to Communicate With Customers

One of the most painful mistakes made by a large company recently was the Netflix disaster. The company decided to enter the digital streaming market with a new brand without explaining the move to its customers, resulting in a whirlwind of confusion and a gigantic price increase for customers who ended up with both services. The result was an 800,000 subscriber loss and a 77% drop in stock prices in four months. Ouch.

Even if you are making the smallest change in your business, for better or worse, loop your customers in long before the change actually happens. Not only will you avoid costly mistakes, you will actually gain more trust and loyalty from your consumers who will see that you aren’t trying to pull any fast ones on them.

  1. 5.    Overpromising

Marketing campaigns that offer discounts or free merchandise can be incredibly successful… but not if you don’t have the goods to back up your word. Timothy’s coffee made the mistake of offering free samples to everyone who followed them on social media. Unfortunately, they ran out of samples in only three days! They weren’t expecting such a huge following, and instead of gaining good press out of the giveaway, they actually did irreparable damage to their brand.

Make sure you offer something within reason and don’t overextend yourselves – your customers will thank you for it in the long run.

Learn from the mistakes others have made in the past and avoid these marketing blunders to keep your company forging along on the road to success.