PR marketing. Failed Marketing Campaigns – How To Handle A Marketing Nightmare.
Name any big industry, and we can find a situation where their marketing went wrong. Why? Because marketing is a delicate form of art trying to relay a singular message to many different people. Sometimes the message you’re trying to relay is not perceived as you intend it. PR marketing exists for just such failed marketing campaigns.
How to handle the failed marketing campaigns nightmare.
We all do our best, but even the masters have on occasion made a PR marketing blunder. This article is about what to do if you find yourself in a failed marketing campaigns nightmare.
When you see a marketing campaign that majorly fails and adversely affects your branding or customer base, the first thing to do is listen. Listen to your audience and define the issues more closely. Objectively look at the ad from the audience’s standpoint and relate to what they are feeling.
PR team clean up – Even big corporations can be insensitive.
Believe it or not, big corporations can come off as utterly insensitive or prejudiced even in today’s world. For example, Bic, a company known for reliable pens and office supplies, found itself in a PR marketing disaster when it launched a social media campaign on International Women’s Day. The digital marketing campaign used the phrasing, “Look like a girl, Act like a lady, Think like a man, Work like a boss.” The brand’s insensitive and discriminatory messaging yielded a negative uproar. Bic’s followers, not surprisingly, responded negatively online in a social media frenzy.
Bic rightfully brought in PR marketing to handle the failed marketing campaigns backlash. Once you discover that your customer base is upset, get right to fixing the issues. Although it is true that you can never please everyone, when there is a sweeping reaction to an ad, give it the attention it rightfully deserves. Close it down and look at what the customers are saying. PR marketing then determines how best to correct the marketing blunder and gain back the trust of the customers you love.
The 3 biggest PR marketing disasters.
As a company, you’ll never want to find yourself caught in the sticky web of these three humongous marketing disasters.
1- Offensive Marketing
As a category, we refer to “offensive” marketing as anything that produces intense feelings of negativity, hatred, disgust, or displeasure with the audience. These include offensive material, insensitive material, or downright prejudiced materials. You may strike an offensive cord with the audience due to poor taste and judgment, a bad joke, or even insensitive timing. When dealing with social concepts that bring emotional attachment, the PR team checks that all your content is supportive and positive to the cause. Construct the marketing campaign to be widely inclusive so as not to come off ignorant or to exclude other groups.
- PR efforts that show support
We saw earlier a negative example above from Bic of offensive prejudice coming through in advertising. Now, let’s look at an excellent example of a well-thought-out PR marketing strategy. This campaign is regarding the issue of young people and body image. Dove, known for its skincare and personal hygiene products, launched a social awareness campaign to support youth and a positive self-body image. This digital marketing campaign #NoDigitalDistortion urged adults and teachers to have “the selfie talk” with teens. The “selfie talk” discusses the possible harmful effects of modifying pictures on digital platforms. Dove’s campaign supported learning the impact of social media on body image and identifying unrealistic beauty standards seen in the media. Media coverage recognized Dove’s support and encouragement for teenagers to understand their strengths and embrace themselves.
Launching a marketing campaign around a cultural belief, a popular social theory, or a national event is a hugely effective way to support your target audience and connect with them. It helps to build brand image and let the audience know what you stand for. Therefore, it is that much more important to make sure you have the right message within your communication.
2- Marketing that forgets the audience.
If your marketing team has done their research, then you’ve built a target audience based on who is most likely to purchase your product or service. Your marketer keeps the target audience in mind during all steps of the marketing process. Whether it’s text style, tone of voice, images, music, or any other aspect of content marketing, the message must convey what your target audience is looking for. The moment you forget to veer your communication for your target audience, you have effectively stopped the advertising from working. Consequently, never forget who you are targeting and how best to reach that audience.
- PR Marketing – making an apology
For example, most of us from Generation X remembers JCPenny’s big apology ad in 2013 that went national. For a short period, JCPenny’s made a humongous revamp of their store image and product lines. In an attempt to uptrend and move forward, they seem to have forgotten who their target audience was. The changes missed the consumers’ viewpoint of what the JC Penny audience expected to experience when shopping with them. JCPenny had a powerful brand promise. When they failed to deliver on it, the customers were outraged and left. This failed marketing campaigns nightmare resulted in a devastating loss for the company. PR marketing stepped in and made a new ad set. This time advertising included a national apology and imploring their customers to come back to the JCPenny they loved. It relayed clearly to their audience that the company heard them and is fixing the mistakes they made.
This example is a clear case of pushing new ideas too far and moving outside of what your target audience expects from you. Brand awareness marketing, first and foremost, must relate to your customers and the values they anticipate from your company. If you’re making extreme changes, the PR team needs to evaluate the changes to ensure you’re not stepping outside your loyal customer base. Conversely, smaller companies looking to expand their efforts often move toward a new target market. Doing so is an informed decision the PR team makes based on the prospective gain from a new target audience to help propel the business forward.
3- Marketing that fails fulfillment of the promise.
Failing to provide your customers what you have promised them breaks the consumer bond. Lack of fulfillment often happens in one of three ways. The first possibility is that the product or service is not living up to the expectation you have set forth. Secondly, poor customer service destroys the experience for the consumer. Therefore making your product or service not something that the consumer is willing to do or try again. Lastly, underestimating the quantity of stock needed so the customer cannot obtain the product. Insufficient stock is highly frustrating to the customer. One or two times is all it takes before they no longer trust you’ll provide what they’re looking for and look elsewhere.
- The PR marketing negative example
A well-known example of the pitfalls mentioned above is New Coke. New Coke came out in 1985. New Coke did well in the test market and had very positive reviews for flavor. Unfortunately, the marketing strategy of New Coke stepped away from Coca-Cola’s brand image of being a genuine product loved for decades. They quickly found out that their audience did not want a better flavor. They wanted the Coke they grew up on. Their audience connected to the nostalgic feelings the original Coke reminded them of and thus preferred the original taste. They grew up drinking original Coke at baseball games, family gatherings, and holiday parties. Removing those memories in favor of a slightly better flavor did not gain Coca-Cola a new market.
Coca-Cola is an old company with a strong brand story and an equally strong brand loyalty expectation. This PR disaster is a clear case of having something better but failing to recognize what the audience expects from you. When you have developed such a strong brand promise, your public relations marketing must evaluate improvements weighed against brand loyalty. Make sure it is the direction you wish to take.
- The PR marketing positive example
Let’s give you just one more example in this similar line of thought. Here the classic watch company Patek Philippe made a conscious decision to close down a highly sought-after product. Patek Philippe no longer makes their famed Nautilus Ref. 5711 watches. This trendy watch was extremely popular and expensive. It made the company lots of money, but the company weighed the value of the watch’s rise in appeal as it became a symbol of extravagance and wealth. This symbol of wealth and commercialization went against the company’s core values and brand promise. So, Patek chose to remove the big seller from the market.
The company’s profits would take an initial hit, but, in the long run, it could continue to build the reputation of the company. This decision was a PR tactic structured to sustain the company for generations, not support it for decades. The company’s president, Thierry Stern, reportedly told the Times, “When you have a fantastic brand like Patek, you have to protect the brand and not just one product.” This concept is an excellent example of understanding your overall brand promise and its impact on your company’s sustainability.
Ok, so something went wrong. What are your PR saving tactics?
Step one – marketing professional apology.
The first step in your PR strategy to recovery is to apologize. Do not justify or explain your actions. The audience is already upset, and justifying how and why you did what you did that made them angry will naturally upset them further. A PR professional will likely advise you that justifying yourself comes off as an excuse or not communicating that you hear the customer’s complaints. The customers need an apology. Instead of explaining what you meant to relay in your communication and inadvertently failed at, apologize and recognize their feelings. Be honest and sincere. See things from the customer’s perspective and let them know you understand and sincerely apologize.
Step two – take a marketing time-out.
Second, on your list, and only to be followed by step one, is to let things settle down. Now that you have offered an apology and the audience knows that you heard them take a step back to let the waters calm down. Dial down marketing efforts to a minimum. Please don’t throw in their face the rise of the next big thing. Rushing into the next media campaign makes them feel like you’re trying to avoid or undermine the issue by moving on to something else. The audience needs time to heal. Moving forward too quickly with a new campaign takes away from your apology.
Step three – thoughtful followthrough marketing.
The next step is to follow up on your claims. Follow through with actions that show value to the audience. Bring your advertising back in a way that helps support everything you just promised them as a correction and apology. Your marketer will focus on your wording so as not to undermine or instigate the audience further. Follow through by showing your company values and supporting the importance of your audience.
For example, covid vaccinations are a touchy topic and must be approached delicately so as not to be offensive. Budweisers social consciousness covid vaccination marketing campaign addressed the issue from a brilliant advertising viewpoint. Budweiser’s content marketing strategy focused on social occasions and the feelings we get from social connections. It did not attempt to push people into a decision about getting the vaccine but recognized the people’s concerns. The message of, “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot.” rang true for the audience and came through clearly as understanding the importance of connections. In this way, Budweiser supported its audience’s values and beliefs. This PR advertising campaign is a prime example of focusing on the wording to support your target audience’s views. It is not an easy thing to master.
Step four – generational marketing.
Finally, consider the generation of your target audience. Hone in on what matters to that particular generation. Generations do not all hold the same core values. Each generation, having gone through different world experiences, actually sees the world differently. If you are going to connect to a specific era, you’ll need to understand what they value and why. Generational marketing helps you build a stronger bond with your customers. Concepts creating a generational marketing plan develop from within the beliefs, attitudes, and world experiences that the specific generation lived through and was brought up in. These feelings and events distinguish them from other generational groups. Find your target audience’s age and decipher what values that generation is known to hold as important. Your new marketing tactic will work around the values for your generational target audience.
What to remember in a PR marketing failure.
To summarize, trying a risky marketing campaign that touches on cultural ideas and current issues can be very risky. Hence, it may also pay off incredibly if you get it right. Try your best to keep the rules of public relations marketing in mind. Always remember your audience’s core beliefs and values. Work hard to portray the correct message to the audience. When you find yourself in a nightmare situation, correct it! Don’t wait for it to go away on its own. Listen to your audience and always let them know how important they are to you. The human condition is full of uncertainties. Stay nimble in your PR marketing, assessing each step along the way. If you find yourself in a media marketing failure, stand up, maneuver the direction of your marketing and correct the situation.
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