Learning from 2013 Marketing Flops

As we look to the New Year, we are hoping for a new start. While 2013 saw many successful marketing campaigns – unfortunately sometimes, despite great efforts marketing messages just don’t work and a campaign goes from a win to a flop. However, even the most unsuccessful marketing campaigns can have some lessons to be learned from. I have outlined the top marketing flops of 2013, in hopes that you can learn from these terrible mistakes.

JC Penny’s Lesson: Know Thy Customer

When JC Penny changed their marketing strategy by trying to extend deals and offer promotions for a longer time it not only confused consumers but most just stopped shopping in the store all together. Under the leadership of Ron Johnson, JC Penny made marketing blunder after blunder by not paying attention to their core customers’ needs, and as a result JC Penny had its worst year in decades. The important lesson to take away from this is that marketers must really know their customer before suddenly changing a brand’s marketing message. In the case of JC Penny their customers has become accustomed to short sales and coupons, instead of supplementing this with maybe mobile or social media capabilities, they chose to change quickly and drastically, thus insulting their customer by showing them they really didn’t know them that well after all.

Go Daddy’s Lesson: Don’t Make Consumers Squirm

Consumers, don’t necessarily want to feel themselves blushing every time they see your marketing message, Go Daddy’s 2013 Super Bowl ad did just that. The ad was labeled as sexist, awful and gross within the first few hours of it being aired.

It was meant to start a conversation but it was all negative. In fact, the ad was so offensive that it caused Go Daddy to change their whole message, and they announced in October 2013 that they were done with “sexy” ads for good.

Marketers who want to push the envelope must make sure their messaging continues a conversation about their brand not just the content of the ad. In a marketing success, Volvo’s ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme, is different, causing a conversation, and showing the capabilities of Volvo’s vehicles all at the same time.


AT&T, and Home Depot’s Lesson: Think before You Tweet

Twitter is supposed to be a way to engage with consumers on an instantaneous and personal level. Everything is live in Twitter, so marketers must really be sure they think before tweeting messages to the masses. Two brands that learned this lesson in 2013 were Home Depot and AT&T. In the case of AT&T a tweet about 9-11, that was used as a platform to advertise a new phone did not go over well with consumers and the company was blasted on Twitter and forced to delete the tweet. For Home Depot, it was a racist tweet of a drum line, which had consumers and the NAACP fuming on Twitter. In Home Depot’s case, it was a PR firm that was in charge of their Twitter account that posted but it provides another important message for brands that they should be in close contact with 3rd party marketing sources that do such work for them.

J.P. Morgan’s Lesson: Know Your Brand’s Sentiment with the Public

Financial giant, J.P. Morgan thought it would be a good idea a few weeks ago to engage with consumers on Twitter through a Q&A session. What they did not take into consideration was the public sentiment of their brand on the internet and as soon as the Q&A session began, an angry public took over.  Soon tweets from the public became rolling, but they were far from light hearted – for example, “Can I have my house back? #AskJPM”. J.P. Morgan becoming overwhelmed with the situation, gave up, shut down the Q&A and cancelled any future sessions. When marketers decide to open up a live dialogue on such a large platform, they must be prepared to handle any response; furthermore it is important that there is awareness among those in the company of the public sentiment of your brand. If a brand is controversial they need to be aware of how they approach the public, otherwise they run the risk of alienating consumers even more.

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