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6 stupid marketing mistakes


Have you ever seen or heard a really great idea and thought, "I sure wish I had thought of that"? On the flipside, have you ever seen a marketing campaign that made you think, "Wow, I am sure glad I did not think of that"? Most of us have been on both sides of the fence, and with every passing day, we all do our best to stay as close to former side -- the good idea side -- as possible.

This article will underscore various marketing approaches that are destined to fail. Out of respect for my industry colleagues, I won't go into too many specifics of a given campaign; rather, I will point out strategic shortcomings that I have noticed over and over again in various campaigns and initiatives.

Twitter is not a one-way megaphone, so don't treat it like one.

The world has gone Twitter crazy. And, true to form, most brands are one step behind early adopters. Over the last year or so, brands have been playing catch up; some brands have even caught the Twitter bug. If you don't believe me, just take a look at this list of brands using Twitter. While I am an advocate of brands effectively using Twitter when it makes sense, I would rather not see brands on Twitter at all than see them negatively disrupting a social channel -- and embarrassing themselves in the process.  

For example, consider British Airways' Twitter presence. When I saw this, I thought, "What were they thinking?" Here are some of the key flaws in the company's execution:

  • British Airways has been live on Twitter for months and has only updated the account seven times.

  • They have 261 followers. And while I recognize many of them as marketers doing their homework, I am sure there are some loyal BA consumers there as well. So, if a consumer is following your brand, why would you not follow them back and make them feel like you care? To that end, how could you not care?

  • BA's tweets -- which are Twitter updates, for the uninformed -- read like well-crafted promotional copy. But Twitter is a conversational platform. When was the last time you said, "Fly business class by 12/31 & get a complimentary companion ticket" in conversation? There is a place for one-way conversations on Twitter -- news updates, emergency warnings, etc. -- but more often than not, it is effective to have an interactive presence on Twitter.

Create buzz, but don't let the bee get away.

Many marketers spend a great deal of time talking about the sexier aspects of the advertising and marketing business. Viral campaigns, buzz marketing and "the big idea" are goals that some find more interesting than making money. I love great advertising and great ideas that generate buzz. I also love the fact that great adverting can be shared online with ease. But if you are going to create demand for something through advertising, be sure that you are able to service that demand and capitalize on it at every touchpoint.

A recent Diesel campaign provides an example of demand generated but not answered. The company launched a [warning: adult themed] video that probably made Ron Jeremy look twice. The launch was in support of Diesel's 30th anniversary, and the buzz surrounding this video was tremendous. As you can see, there was a significant spike in the number of queries for "diesel video" on Google.

What if, for example, I had heard about the Diesel video but heard no details about the content? Let's say all I knew was that Diesel had created a must-see online video. I did a search for "diesel video," and the results looked something like this:


The brand itself is not present in the organic listing, so the company obviously did not optimize the video for search. In addition, Diesel is not buying the keyword on Google in order to respond to the demand generated by the video.

Responding to demand generation from outdoor advertising can also be an effective way to generate additional interest around a campaign. For example, let's pretend it is a sunny day in New York City and we -- me and you, yeah you -- just finished Sunday brunch. We see the below outdoor ad, but due to our after-brunch haze, we only take note of the billboard's attributes. We were able to remember the medium (AstroTurf on wall) but forgot the message (tune in for Monday Night Football). I say to you, "Do you remember that green AstroTurf ad we saw? What was it for? Can you do a Google search and let me know? I'm really curious."

It should be pretty easy to find on Google, right? Actually, it was not as easy as you think. But in this case, it was not too hard to find something about the billboard.

The third result on Google links to an article about how people vandalized some of these experimental ads and how the materials were potentially hazardous. This does not necessarily shed a positive light on ESPN. You found what you were looking for on Google, but you also may have found something that ESPN would not want you to find.
In light of the fact that these billboards were experimental, it was very likely that there would be a lot of chatter about them. It would have been prudent for ESPN to harness the buzz through search. ESPN could have created a series of PPC ads targeted to all of the locations where the billboards lived. For a modest budget, ESPN could have successfully captured the demand it generated (and, in this case, detracted consumers from negative press).

Here's a sample ad that ESPN could have used:

Existing sites cannot be "SEOed." Stop trying.

Have you ever tried to build a house from the top down? Of course not. That would be silly, right?

The notion may not seem as silly when you hear, as I do, time and again, "We just finished our new site, and we need it SEOed." I don't have a screenshot for this section, as half of the websites I see do not adhere to web standards. (Examples of poor web development are not hard to find.)

A good SEO practitioner can certainly help out after a site is built. But why not employ an SEO strategist from day one in order to ensure the site is being built properly?

The "mashup" web is less about insular content beds and more about adapted content -- content that can be distributed with ease in order to get your marketing messages heard in various environments.

Next time you are working on a new site, get a good SEO consultant involved from day one. Your budget will thank you for it.

Feel free to stay at home in your walled garden -- just don't be surprised when no one shows up for the tea party.

Let's face it, websites are dead.

Did that get your attention?

A website is simply one part of a brand's web presence. To be blunt, I am sick of hearing about award-winning websites that cost an absurd amount of money and yield few results. It is time digital marketers begin to think in terms of their web presence, not their website. It is time digital marketers learn how to create syndicated web strategies.

Here you see the Jeep website, fully equipped with all the obligatory Flash elements.

While I am a big fan of online experiences, I am not sure that the Flash components of this site are, in fact, Jeep's strongest marketing assets. If you click on the link off of the Jeep homepage titled "Jeep Experience," you find what I feel to be the most valuable elements of Jeep's online experience: Jeep's community page.


Jeep's experience page is a hub for all of its social content on the web -- content that is spread across various properties outside of the company's own domain. At a time when consumers have a great deal of control over their online media experiences, marketers need to think past their own walled gardens. The alternative is irrelevance and obsolescence.

A disconnected nation
So, every brand needs a social network, right?

The proliferation of white-label social networks has led to some pretty outlandish, unexpected -- and sometimes useless -- branded networks. While I certainly don't think it is bad for a brand to experiment with a private social network (I have seen and am working on some very exciting ones), there are two questions that need to be answered before the experiment ensues:

  • What value is the network adding?

  • How interoperable can I make my network with other social networks? In other words, how easily does my network talk to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.? This is often a technical, legal and bureaucratic question.

I recently joined Slurpee's social network, Slurpee Nation, and I have to admit that I found it to be of little value. Still, there seem to be a few thousand people who disagree. I would be willing to bet that the creators of this network are underwhelmed by its performance, but a few thousand hand-raisers are nothing to scoff at. If Slurpee is committed to its network and its community, I have no doubt the company can find a way to provide value over time.

My main gripe with Slurpee's overarching social web presence is that the company seems to have a number of outposts, but there is nothing that connects them. Below you can see the Slurpee Nation's homepage, as well as its seemingly disconnected Facebook page.

Social media is a commitment, not a campaign.

As social media visionary (and my boss) Joe Jaffe says, "Social media is a commitment, not a campaign." I often use this saying -- and sometimes forget to give Joe credit -- as this is a notion with which many marketers cannot seem to come to terms. Every day a new branded blog, podcast or Facebook page/application (and many other vehicles) adds to the clutter on the massive grid that is the internet, making it difficult for consumers to find what they really want. The problem is that much of this new content is not fostered and cared for, and initiatives are cut off at the knees before they even have a chance to realize success. If a brand is a promise, then every consumer touchpoint is part of that promise. Unmet promises by brands are brand suicide. And brand initiatives in the social space that are ended prematurely are tantamount to a broken promise.

The British Airways Twitter campaign mentioned earlier is an example of an unmet brand promise. By no longer showing up to its own community on Twitter, British Airways is making a statement that it simply doesn't care about its consumers. It is one thing to discontinue an online branded outpost; it is an entirely different thing to simply let it rust. 

Along the same lines, every branded Facebook fan page that is not kept up-to-date and every branded blog that lies dormant sends a message to the consumers who originally engaged the brand in conversation. The message sent by these brands is, "We simply don't care." Try using that as a tagline in your next 30-second spot.

When did things referred to as "viral" become a good thing?

I have heard numerous accounts of PR firms pitching videos they say are "viral." Months back, I read a blog post about an example of this type of marketing push on Lee Odden's Online Marketing Blog. Odden (and many others) were not pleased with the approach of the brand in question. Many were also not pleased with the video itself

More recently, the folks over at Videogum asked the question, "Was 2006 the golden age of viral video?" Amid the herd of marketers trying to create viral video, most are missing the point.

Take the video that Odden posted about on his blog back in February. The video is obnoxious and racist -- but there is no doubt it is an attention grabber and was passed around the web many times. The over-the-top nature of this video is so disruptive that, much like a car crash, one has little choice but to stop and see what is going on. The question is, just because something is passed around the web, does that mean it's good? Moreover, does it mean that the video is beneficial to the brand?

As much as I hate to propagate bad taste, take a look at the video mentioned above. There is no question it is viral, but ask yourself, "Is that how I want my brand represented?" With more and more marketers pushing the limits of taste for some cheap attention, thereby making consumers more and more skeptical, maybe Videogum was right -- perhaps 2006 was the height of the viral video.

The word "bad" is highly subjective. I often see campaigns that I think are bad, but I realize everyone has their own opinions. The fact is, today's marketing landscape has more ways to objectively deem elements of a campaign "good" or "bad" using analytics and other tools.

Some marketers are creating innovative initiatives and are starting to adapt to the new media landscape. Many more marketers are struggling with one vital function in modern marketing: connecting the dots. A great deal of marketers are still not paying attention to the interplay between search and outdoor, or Facebook and their own websites (to name just a few examples). Integration is the pinnacle of an effective campaign in today's marketplace. Even if some of the core ideas behind a campaign are not so good, a campaign can be saved through integration and optimization.

This article outlined a variety of marketing mistakes, but most of the mistakes were not in the ideas themselves -- the mistakes were in the execution.

Adam Broitman is strategy director/ringleader at Crayon.

Recognized by iMedia’s top 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, Broitman is known for devising effective creative strategies that live at the cross section of technology and marketing. As Vice President and Senior Business Leader of...

View full biography


to leave comments.

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 18

Thanks Ed!

Yes, presence, not site is key! And by web, I am talking mobile extensions too. Eventually it will be a matter of optimizing your entire digital brand identity, but we are not quite there yet :)

Commenter: Ed Richardson

2008, November 18

Great article Adam, some interesting points raised, from the involvement and commitment required to sustain a social networking campaign through to a somewhat moral obligation to ensure some form of "fair play" when it comes to encouraging uptake.

I agree with some of the comments that follow, but you've answered those, so fair play(again). The comments relating to SEO were on the whole, I thought accurate, you can SEO and existing website, but as you say it is a whole lot easier to consider SEO at the construction phase. In fact its a whole lot better to consider digital media/marketing/publishing/optimising in one big take and usually gets the best results when done so.

I still encounter many people who want to just "refresh their website", when what you really want them to be asking is "how can we improve our web presence".

Look forward to reading more from you. Cheers.

Commenter: Akhilesh Sabharwal

2008, November 16

In agreement!!
Rather than using it for simple promotional copy, a roundabout wayof working might get you bet results, as in the case of the Mars Lander experiment


Commenter: Jonathan Kash

2008, November 12

Thanks for mentioning my Index... like anything in life, there are good and bad examples to follow. With Twitter, personality and engagement are critical. Take a look at the Molson twitter crew for an example of ppl that "get it."

Commenter: Metin Odemis

2008, November 12

Will do! Thanks.

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 12


Thanks for the comments and encouragement!

As for the piece you wanted to add--I would love for you to write something up so I can post it on my blog where I am continuing the conversation.

I would love to do an experiment--you write me a post and in turn, I will plug your company on my blog. The real win is meaningful discourse across media properties!!


Commenter: Metin Odemis

2008, November 12


Right on! We especially agree with you on the misuse of Social Channels like Twitter by brands and strategists.

And more attention need to be paid to a Web presence campaign, and not enhancing a Website.

Thanks for summarizing some of the issues we are faced with.

We'd like to also add that User Generated Content campaigns need to be monitored more closely; an all out but directionless Engagement should not be compromised at the expense of Interactivity.

Commenter: Neil Perry

2008, November 12

I appreciate the time you put into sharing this information. Many of us use the excuse we are too busy, and that's a real cop out. Is cop out one word or two?
Anyway, thanks. There was a lot of great learning in your article. I look forward to more.

Commenter: Colin Watson

2008, November 12

Ditto for "making the site secure". Build it in from the start - it's cheaper and more effective.

Commenter: Joseph Szala

2008, November 12


Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 12

I love how Twitter has changed the way we address people--even in comments we use the @ symbol

Commenter: Dave Morse

2008, November 12


Agreed! The very best option is to build it right (or, as you stated, taking vitamins) from the start.

But with the economy wrecking havoc on budgets, many places can't afford to build from ground up (er, uhm, more accurately, they don't want to spend on this), I just felt it was a bit over-the-top to say that sites can't be fixed ... like saying, "The patient is having a heart attack ... but stop trying to save him, he's beyond help". :-)

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 12


Glad you are on board!

Now let's amplify the message to the decision makers.

Commenter: Joseph Szala

2008, November 12

@Dave : I think the title is a little off, but I go back to an adage "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."

You can perform some optimization on a site after the fact, but it's really just band aid work. It's better to have an SEO strategist on the team from the beginning to help craft architecture, file naming, and the various other SEO aspects.

Why perform triage when you could simply have taken vitamins to prevent thinning blood?

Why bail out the water, when you could have built a better boat?

Why....am I posting so many examples. You get the idea.

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 12


To be honest, I am totally on your side! That portion was a plug for all the SEO's out there and a bit of linkbait to get people thinking.

I love your analogy and yes, there are ways you can fix a site--but I feel the mentality must change. People must begin to think about these things upfront. Just ask Toby Evers of Morpheus Media. That guy can fix your site up, but if you are planning on building something new, you MUST work with an SEO (or suffer the consequences)

Commenter: Tristan Bailey

2008, November 12

Nice article Adam, linking it back to how some big companies are still pushing billboard style campaigns to online marketing shows some still have to shift to a commitment to customers and so to engage online with people

Commenter: Dave Morse

2008, November 12

I like this article and agree with most of what was said, with the exception of the part about "Existing sites cannot be 'SEOed". I disagree.

To more accurately use your home building analogy, I certainly wouldn't build a house from the top down ... but, I could install 1,000,000 lights on my roof in order to get my house noticed by astronauts in orbit. Isn't that the point of SEO - to get discovered?

I agree with the sentiment that building a site from the ground up with SEO best practices in play is the best option. But all hope is not lost for existing sites! There are plenty of tactics (e.g. even just simple on-page SEO stuff like use of tags, using keywords in "alt" attribute for images, keyword-rich tags, etc.) that can be implemented in order to increase online visibility.

Perhaps the title should be "Existing sites have more trouble getting SEOed than new ones" ... not nearly as catchy as yours, though.

Agree or disagree?

Again, enjoyed the article. I follow Greg Verdino's work a lot, too.

Commenter: Adam Broitman

2008, November 12


Thanks for the comment, and you are right, the crayon blog has not been updated in a bit. We are working on rebuilding it, but in the mean time, we have 4 avid bloggers:

Me: www.amediacirc.us
Joe Jaffe: www.jaffejuice.com
Greg Verdino: http://gregverdino.typepad.com
Jane Quigley: http://www.janequigley.com/

As you can see we are committed to the space, and the conversation.

Commenter: Zip Flynn

2008, November 12

Great article, Adam. Thanks for articulating so well many of the thoughts buzzing round my head recently.

So... thought I'd check out the Crayon website. And guess what? Your blog hasn't been updated since July! Obviously your colleagues haven't read this piece yet...