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  • Suzette Feller

Three Marketing Blunders and What You Can Learn from Them

Here’s a simple life hack for marketing professionals: Learn from other people’s mistakes. That way, you’ll never have to learn the hard way (by making those mistakes yourself). I’ll admit that I find some marketing blunders pretty entertaining to watch, provided that they’re not offensive or painfully cringeworthy. That’s what I’ll focus on today – the light and funny marketing mistakes that we can all learn from. Because, in addition to being entertaining, they are also highly educational.


1. Blackberry Tweets from an iPhone


What Happened: In January 2015, a well-intentioned marketing professional at Blackberry tweeted a promo unveiling the newest version of this once-iconic phone. It looked sleek, futuristic, and stylish, but the Twitterverse soon descended on the tweet with endless teasing and memes. Why? Because it was tweeted from an iPhone. The small text at the bottom of the tweet, which read “via Twitter for iPhone,” couldn’t lie. Poor Blackberry, who was desperately trying to recapture its share of the smartphone market, had inadvertently promoted its biggest rival. It sent the message that even Blackberry employees prefer iPhones.


Marketing Takeaways: First and foremost, eat your own dog food. If you don’t believe in a product or service that you’re marketing, that lack of faith will come across some way, somewhere. Secondly – and I can’t emphasize this enough – double, triple, and quadruple check anything that you plan to publish. Get at least one other set of eyes to look over your work and pick up the little things you may have missed, like the “via Twitter for iPhone” note at the bottom. I’ve found that when looking over your own work, you’re far more likely to miss the small things like that. That’s why it’s crucial to have a chain of command in your organization, with multiple people approving everything before it’s released to the public.


2. Coca-Cola Willfully Ruins Everything That Made It Coca-Cola


What Happened: Flashback to 1985. Back to the Future had just come out; Madonna was everywhere; Brian Castle was wreaking havoc as a teenager in Jackson, Mississippi; and Pepsi was slowly stealing everybody away from Coke (or so the Coca-Cola people thought). In an effort to win back consumers, Coca-Cola decided to sweeten its product so that it would taste more like its sugary competitor, Pepsi, which many people had come to prefer. There was just one problem: Everyone hated it. So much so that they began to hoard bottles of the old Coke and sell them at exorbitant prices. A few short months later, the company announced a return to its old, beloved recipe.


Marketing Takeaways: Never assume that you know what your audience wants. Before making any big changes to how you operate – whether it’s your recipe, logo, or packaging – it’s crucial to speak with members of your audience to get a feel for what they want and don’t want. For big business, that means doing extensive market research; for small and mid-sized businesses, it may mean something as simple as calling up a few of your most loyal clients to ask them a few questions. Change can be a beautiful thing. In fact, we recently rebranded with a new logo and website and it proved to be a great move for Parklife. But there will always be those things, like the original Coca-Cola recipe, that make your brand unique and indeed build the very foundation of who you are as a company. Consumers do not respond well to having those things taken away.


3. Heinz Ketchup Accidentally Dabbles in Pornography


What Happened: In June 2015, an unsuspecting German man named Daniel Korell scanned the QR code of his Heinz Ketchup bottle. You can imagine his surprise when it led him straight to a pornographic website. Turns out, Heinz hadn’t bothered to renew the URL associated with this QR code, and it was snatched up by a raunchy website. Lucky for Heinz, Korell had a sense of humor about the incident, and the pornographic website even gifted him a one-year membership. Nonetheless, when Korell posted about it jokingly on the Heinz Facebook page, it left some consumers offended and worrying about what might pop up the next time their child scanned a mustard bottle.


Marketing Takeaways: Stay on top of every segment of your marketing toolkit, from URLs to QR codes to Twitter handles. There are a lot of inappropriate websites out there, and all it takes is one moment of having your URL up for grabs. Before you know it, a salacious website has taken over the same URL that’s printed across all your business cards and stationery. In the same vein, try to grab any Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook handles that might be confused with your company. Here’s a bonus blunder that illustrates this idea: Qwikster, the short-lived DVD-by-mail service from Netflix, left many consumers puzzled because the Twitter handle you’d expect from the company (twitter.com/qwikster) was actually owned by a pot-smoking party boy who often tweeted about his boredom. You can probably imagine how that led to brand confusion.


Maybe one day, I’ll share some of the mistakes we’ve made at Parklife (once we’ve finished drying our tears and can laugh about them).

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