The reason why marketing is such an inexact science is that human beings are notoriously unpredictable. A marketing campaign with no malice intended whatsoever could quickly run afoul of a single representative group that feels personally offended by the information presented in the ads.
Offended individuals usually pour social media outrage on companies that fail to realize all the facets their advertising could strike, especially the offensive ones, and this can have harmful consequences on a brand’s public image. Below, 13 members of Forbes Communications Councilexplore some of the methods companies can use to identify what went wrong when a marketing campaign fails and how to remedy the situation.
1. Quickly Own Your Mistakes And Fix Them
It’s hard to fool digitally-savvy modern consumers. They know that by the time a campaign reaches their eyes, it’s gone through strategic planning, execution and approval stages. As such, a company will have to take ownership of their error and demonstrate they understand why they missed the mark. In the age of social media, a swift response will allow a company some control over the narrative. – Karla Larraga, Champions School of Real Estate
2. Do Your Fact Finding
When something goes wrong in a campaign, before you remedy anything, do your fact-finding. Learn who disliked it. What was the feedback? What specific aspects went wrong? Before you toss out the baby with the bathwater, find out the details. – Deborah Farone, Farone Advisors
3. Humble Yourself By Showing Your Humanity
We all make mistakes, it’s human. Analyzing what went wrong is crucial, but it will take time. In the meantime, accept responsibility and do so in a real way that connects with people. Have a team member make a small apologetic video, reminding your customers that your company is made up of people too. Do whatever it takes to preserve the trust of your customers because, without them, you are nothing. – Patrick Ward, High Speed Experts
4. Listen To What People Are Saying
Rather than “damage control,” the first step is to listen to what people are saying. Even if you don’t agree or your message was misunderstood, a response from a large group usually has legs. For issues of race, gender and sexuality, understand that the fury folks have is part of a bigger picture. We can’t respond rationally until we have first taken a deep breath and really listened. – Amanda Hinski, Frost Valley YMCA
5. Perform Analytics
Call your marketing team and analyze what went wrong. Did you tap into the wrong audience? Was your message not clear? Once you have identified a mistake, don’t just apologize, but fix your current marketing campaign with a minor adjustment or introduce a new campaign. Survey forms can help you in the problem analysis process. – Haseeb Tariq,Fox.com
6. Unmask The Dark Funnel
Since the majority of business-to-business buying happens in a “dark funnel” before prospects identify themselves, most of us don’t know if they’re reacting positively or negatively. The key is shedding a light on your dark funnel with intent data and predictive analytics. With real insights on prospect behavior, you know if your message and tactics are engaging prospects or sending them to a competitor’s website. – Latane Conant, 6sense
7. Do Not Panic
Never rush to respond, nor take your time with it. Depending on the reaction, decide your course of action. If there is no response or if it’s a very calm one with no real action, change your audience assumption and test it. You can also change your message and call to action. If the response is negative, create a respective but fun response to address and shift the attention to something else. Spin it. – Kobi Ben-Meir, Yalber
8. Take Inventory And Start Over
When a marketing plan doesn’t go as planned, the best thing to do is start over. Take inventory of what happened and formulate a new cohesive plan with a different angle and approach. Hypothesize the reason the plan didn’t go well and try to anticipate any future missteps. By releasing a new innovative and thoughtful plan, the audience will, you hope, move on from the failed attempt. – Kristen Wessel, ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm
9. Look To The Data, Not Trends
Especially in the age of woke capitalism, more and more companies find themselves either at extreme ends of polarizing messages or getting BS called on hollow virtue signaling. It’s all about knowing your audience. Learn who, what, where and why your campaign tanked. Look at KPIs, engagement rates, dig into the comments on social media and move forward with data instead of hopping on every trend. – Daniel Lalley,Brondell Inc.
10. Be Prepared For The Law Of Unintended Consequences
The actions that people take can have unanticipated or unintended effects. At worst, these unintended effects go viral and end up trending on social media. Situations that are unanticipated can be scary and fearful responses are dangerous. Step one, be mentally prepared for this day. Next, you need to pause and take a breath. After that, review your core values and craft an authentic response. – Kevin Jaskolka, PAR Technology, Inc.
11. Talk To Those Who Are Offended For Honest Feedback
Ideally, talk with those who are offended using planned, open-ended questions to uncover emotions and solutions. To avoid a repeat offense, you have to know some details like who is offended, why and what aspect of the campaign was bothersome. Oftentimes, a sincere apology with an action plan to correct the offensive ad or behavior goes a long way. Consider using them in future focus groups. – Debbie Lee, Gainesville Health & Fitness
12. Use It As A Learning Opportunity
Having campaigns that underperform or “fail” is inevitable. However, a campaign is really only a failure if you don’t take away lessons to improve future campaigns. The first step is digging into the performance data and really understanding what didn’t work. Learn everything you can about what drove the campaign’s sub-par performance and leverage that info to plan your next campaign. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC
13. Evaluate Your Messaging Processes Honestly
A marketing campaign gone wrong can be traced to weak links in the company’s messaging process. Often, a top decision maker has overridden critical thought processes and planning. The first step in figuring out what to do next is an honest evaluation of what went wrong—including speaking truth to power. Without that, repetition will occur. Company culture and processes are critical. – EDMOND M ALLMOND,Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc / UC Berkeley / Lyd, LLC