AUGUST, 2016
Digital Marketing Fails and Lessons Learned
We all fall down sometimes. Here are my “what were they thinking?!?” moments from the last several months.

Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
Branding a city or state is hard. Instead of starting with an idea of what a community wants to be, it needs to start with an honest assessment of the community’s culture. Boise will never be Las Vegas and Las Vegas will never be Boise. And while Las Vegas is a thriving, energetic hub of entertainment, some people dislike the noise, the crowds and the frenetic pace. Branding Boise is about recognizing the stunning landscapes and fascinating history of the area. And branding Rhode Island should have been about the same thing.

Except when a series of mistakes use footage of a different country in an advertisement for Rhode Island.

Lesson learned: Everyone in a chain of approval is a responsible for the final outcome. Question the assumptions of the other people working on a project.

Total Beauty
Why are so many digital marketing errors made on Twitter? Is it that, in the rush to be the first to a topic, there isn’t always enough double-checking? Or is it more likely that brands assign the task of tweeting endlessly to inexperienced, lower paid interns or contractors instead of recognizing the true power of the channel?

Either way, confusing Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg is a serious misstep. As many Twitter users pointed out, confusing these two talented and powerful women of color in a large crowd that doesn’t include nearly enough people of color or women is offensive, not just a silly mistake.

Lesson learned: If a business chooses to engage in a social channel, it needs to do so in a thoughtful way that recognizes the power of that channel.

“The campaign is only as good as its content. And the content is only good when the intended audience is understood and actively engaged.”

Although this fail goes back a few years, digital marketing professionals are still learning from Nesquik’s bunny ears fiasco.

It started with an idea – let’s declare National Bunny Ears day in September! And then it morphed into an app – let’s build something that adds bunny ears to people’s pictures! Which was advertised but not downloaded. Social channels were silent. A promised gallery of user pictures never emerged because there were no pictures. A total flop.

Why was it such a flop?  Well, trying to engage parents and kids during the back to school season with any other message than back to school is an issue. The app itself was so massively branded and promotional that the whole thing looked like an ad and was clumsy to use.  And the advertising for the campaign started in June, way before Bunny Ear day.  And then there’s the obvious: the original idea isn’t that compelling.

Lesson learned: The campaign is only as good as its content. And the content is only good when the intended audience is understood and actively engaged

Everybody Needs the D
Canada has long, dark winters, leading to high amounts of vitamin D deficiency in the population.  To combat this and raise public awareness of the issue, the Yukon created an ad campaign to encourage people to take vitamin D supplements.

Now it is tempting to think that someone just didn’t know what ‘needs the D’ means to people.  However, that isn’t the case.  The Director of Communications for the Department of Health and Social Services actually intended the phrase to capture people’s attention.  Especially young people.  The ads were intended to be risqué and discussed. But they were taken down a few days after they started getting just that attention.  Seems as though most people, instead of seeing the ad as intentional, saw it as some kind of mistake.

Why the miscommunication?  Probably because the ad visual and context just didn’t live up to that intention.  Unlike successful guerilla marketing campaigns by Old Spice, PETA, and Deadpool, the ads aren’t edgy in any other way.  They look like posters in a doctor’s office.

Lesson learned: Stick to your guns and be consistent with your audience and intent. Different audiences find different messages compelling.

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