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9 campaign blunders to avoid

9 campaign blunders to avoid Zach Weiner

The purpose of any good advertising campaign is to get your brand or product noticed. But what happens when a simple campaign goes off the rails? Well plenty of companies, in fact big and important companies, have found out the hard way. Lucky for you, their mistakes can serve as an example of what not to do while navigating your own campaign. Here is a list of campaign blunders to avoid.

9 campaign blunders to avoid

It's not a small world after all

If you've ever spent a significant amount of time outside of the U.S., you've probably come across certain cultural divides. Unfortunately for some advertisers, these culture differences extend into languages and phrases. If you plan on globally launching a product or consumer brand, it's wise to do extensive research and not rely on an online translator. As ridiculous as this may seem, mega successful brands did not heed this warning and instead have launched campaigns that will go down in history as the best slogan blunders ever, that are just inappropriate.

When Coors Brewing Company advertised its slogan "Turn it Loose" in Spain, the phrase instead translated into "Suffer from Diarrhea." Something tells me Coors was not the drink of choice in Spain. Pepsi's slogan "We bring you back to life" was great, unless you were in China where it translated to "We bring your ancestors back from the grave." Talk about false advertising!

It's important to research, research, research! Whether you enlist in a language expert or test a slogan within your targeted audience, understanding the culture and language is the best way to avoid a massive (often hilarious) mistake that could cost you big.

Ready or not?

The marketing world is nothing like track and field: There are no do-overs for a false start. That means once you're out, you're out. If your product is not 100 percent ready to launch, don't launch it or suffer the consequences. No amount of competitive edge or time restrains warrants a beta version hitting the market.

In 2012, tech giant Apple planned to replace the Google Maps application on the iPhone with its own Apple Maps. Unfortunately for everyone, the new app was nothing to write home about (mainly because the mailman would never be able to find your home using this app). Plagued by improper labeling, unmapped locations and incorrect information, Apple eventually told customers not to use the application until it was improved. Today, Apple Maps has been upgraded into a much higher quality application, but that doesn't mean consumers forget. Launching an unfinished product not only places doubt into the customer's minds, it also tarnishes that product no matter how great it eventually becomes.

Don't fix what isn't broken

If you have a great product that your customer loves, don't mess with it! Altering an already successful product has the potential to flop and gives your competitors the opportunity to market off your mistake.

In 1985, Coca-Cola announced it had come up with a new formula for Coke. It launched "New Coke" that year, discontinuing the original soft drink the same week. After a tremendous backlash from consumers who loved the original version, the company had no choice but to bring back the classic Coke product. During this marketing failure, the Pepsi brand reaped short-term benefits as Coke drinkers revolted.

Making upgrades and improvements to a product can see success, but when you completely alter the original version you better watch out -- consumers will have no problem telling you how they feel.

Insult may cause injury

There are just some jokes that aren't worth making, especially for national or global ad campaigns. Yes, this includes racist, sexist or otherwise insulting remakes. What else can I say, just don't do it.

Belvedere, the polish vodka company ran an overtly offensive ad that upset many, especially women! The ad showed a man grabbing hold of a horrified woman with the slogan, "Unlike Some People Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly." It's quite puzzling as to how an ad like that was approved, but it's just proof that offensive ads do happen. If you're not sure if an ad will be seen as offensive, test the ad on a wide range of groups. Better safe than sorry. Isn't that right Belvedere?

Political plummet

When it comes to politics, the lines are hard and fast. There is no appeasing every group, which is why -- as a company -- you need to stay out of it. Even posting a politically charged comment on social media is a bad idea if you're the face of the company.

I think we all remember the stand Chick-fil-A took on same-sex marriage. This declaration sparked nationwide protests and had many customers vowing to never eat there again. It also caused some city governors to say they would block the franchise from expanding in the area.

It's okay to have personal beliefs and views, but you need to remember that they are just that -- personal. It isn't smart for a company to side on any end of the spectrum if its main goal is gaining and maintaining customers.

Trend lightly

If there is even a possibility of a group of people having ill-will toward your company, you may want to be careful when it comes to social media campaigns. What could be seen as a fun, creative way for customers to indirectly promote the company could turn into a firestorm free-for-all.
In 2012, McDonald's launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtags #mcdstories, with the idea customers would share their stories of emotional appeal. This majorly backfired when disgruntled customers instead told horror stories of the fast food chain, causing McDonald's to later admit the campaign did not go as planned. Open-ended hashtags and social media campaigns can be tricky if your company is anything but pure, as it creates an open-season situation for any and all social media users.

Keep design in mind

Sometimes you can have a great advertising idea, but the design and placement do not match-up. When this happens, it can completely taint an otherwise effective campaign.

As part of a larger campaign, The Lung Cancer Alliance designed an ad that displayed in big, bold text "Cat Lovers Deserve To Die," with subsequent, smaller text underneath that read "If they have lung cancer." This text went on to describe the point of the ad in full. The problem: The ad was placed on buses, so viewers couldn't read the substantially smaller text, leaving them confused as to why cat lovers should deserve to die.

Ad design and placement go hand-in-hand. If they don't, prepare for a baffled and confused audience, and even worse -- a bad campaign.

There, their, they're

Study them, learn them, and get 'em right! Same with "its" and "it's" and "your" and "you're." These are the most common grammar problems people deal with, but when it comes to any spelling or usage don't just double-check it -- quadruple-check it -- because this just isn't safe for anyone.

When Mitt Romney was running for President in 2012, his team may have wanted to read over the spelling of the nation he was trying to represent. In a botched iPhone app, Romney's campaign spelled America wrong. Yes, you heard that correctly. The "A Better Amercia" campaign quickly made Romney the butt (or is it but, Mitt?) of many well-deserved jokes. It's okay to be creative with grammar and spelling, but only when it's witty and not embarrassing.

Edgy or over the edge?

A good ad catches people's attention and creates buzz, but make sure it isn't for the wrong reasons. There is a fine line between being edgy and being over the edge. Sisley fashion is known for their shocking advertisements, including a "Fashion Junkie" campaign that depicted two extremely thin women doing lines of cocaine off a white tank top designed to look like the drug. Does this ad glorify drug use in the fashion world? We'll let you be the judge.

There is no hard and fast rule here, but when you're going for shock-value make sure it's for the right reasons.
Zach Weiner is CEO of Emerging Insider Communications.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Male sneakers on asphalt road" image via Shutterstock.

Zachary Weiner is the CEO of Emerging Insider Communications, A boutique PR and Marketing firm focused on the emerging television and advertising industries. He was the founder and a current advisor of CTV Advertising a digital/TV advertising...

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