Brand blunders we have known (and still do)

brands,marketing,disasters,marketing messages,writing,blogging

No matter how big and famous
a brand, it can still make mistakes
with its head up its *ss…

Across the industrialized markets, millions are wasted every year on business / marketing brand communication that doesn’t work because the basic message and the thinking behind it is wrong. This is a drum I have been banging for the last 20 years and sadly see a need to keep banging it even now (happily I have very understanding neighbors.)

Teams of people including types like me often are called in to extinguish as much of the erroneous thinking as possible, rescue what little there is that wasn’t charred beyond recognition, then try to make it work as a piece of communication.

A sample disaster

Take one of the UK’s leading “motoring organizations,” a few years ago. They invested seriously big bucks in a marketing campaign based on their vision of mobility in the future.

Their vibrant new marketing director shouted her eureka moments and although nobody else in her internal team quite understood the concept, especially of the hideously expensive TV commercials, they all nodded wisely and agreed that because they couldn’t understand it, it must be really clever.

They even kept on nodding when they got to the bit where it said people should think more in terms of riding bicycles to keep the planet clean, and ditch dirty old cars. After all, that’s politically correct.

Now, go make that work

Enter me and my colleagues, charged (as stakeholder comms experts, ya understand ) with the unenviable task of trying to convey this heap of bullsh*t to a mere 3,000-odd employees and another few thousand wallahs working for their supplier organizations.

brands,marketing,fiascos,disasters,marketing communication,messages,writing,blogging

Now, go make it work

Given that we were all pretty good at our  jobs, we managed to get a message over to our audiences that the associated re-organization was probably the best bet they had going for them at the time and might help secure their  jobs. We felt a bit guilty about it, but we were mere paid elves so “fulfilled the brief.”

Considering the high level from which this absurd dictat  came, those affected by it all had to believe it and didn’t have many alternatives other than to laugh,
cry, get drunk, or resign.

Oh, whoops

Within 24 hours of the (previously mentioned) very expensive consumer campaign breaking, the UK gutter press splashed the organization’s name across all the print and online front pages in 200 point caps, along with extremely rude and extremely justified jeers about the confused hypocrisy and pomposity of the message.

The organization’s market share crashed down and dribbled through the floorboards like spilled cappuccino.

At long last the senior wallahs in the organization saw the light, fired the blazing Madame Marketing Director, took on a sane marketer replacement who had been around the block a few times, and started running ads that sold high quality motoring services.

Which is what they’re good at, and what the market always had wanted in the first place..

Phew. Go figure.

How could that have happened?

(And there were numerous other disasters involved here too … remind me to tell you the funnier ones when we meet one day.)

Is it really an example of “the emperor’s new clothes” with no-one wanting to admit the whole thing was horribly, horribly wrong? Did they honestly believe they could take a marketing stance that was driven by political correctness which, whoops, totally opposed the values of their core business and customer base? For Heaven’s sake, what were they on?

Bottom line?

No organisation is immune from getting a marketing message wrong.

Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees, whether you’re in your own street or a jungle in Borneo.

blog,writing,news,blogging,business,Suzan St Maur,, how to write betterAnd even if you do hear alarm bells going off in the distance, often people feel that damage limitation will be easier if you stick your fingers in your ears rather than go turn them off.

Moral? Never be afraid to instigate reality checks … no matter who says it’s not necessary, and no matter who and how lowly in the organization you might be.

What experience have you had with fiascos like this? Please share your thoughts!