5 mistakes that well-known brands made in marketing campaigns

Marketing is a delicate beast at times.

Campaigns can be sprawling and extensive, yet also interconnected and with short-term goals. Whether or not you are operating in an agile way, finding the right balance of so many facets – such as messaging, tone of voice, visuals and audiences – requires lots of thought. And the more high-profile the campaign, the bigger the necessity to get this right.

Naturally, with so many moving parts it’s possible to lose sight of the overall picture, and sometimes this makes campaigns noticeable for the wrong reasons. Of course, we all make mistakes. That’s why the following is a collection of examples from well-known brands, from which we can all learn from (and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes).

EA’s knuckleduster giveaway for the Godfather II

When Electronic Arts (EA) announced they were releasing a video game based on the 1974 film of the same name, no doubt people were excited to delve into the world of the Corleone family once again.

And with such a hot property on their hands, EA were determined to give it maximum brand exposure. But in the notoriously competitive world of video-game marketing, relying on the property itself was never going to be enough. Something distinctive was needed. So, in April 2009, EA decided to dispatch brass knuckles (a weapon synonymous with crime syndicates similar to those in the game) to journalists, alongside advanced copies of the game.

Despite EA being based in California where owning brass knuckles are illegal, they shipped them to other states where they are also illegal. In their defence, EA tried to recall them, but the damage was done, and this marketing ploy entered the headlines in earnest.

Knuckledusters in wrapping

As featured in Engadget

  • Takeaway: Be careful when including something risky and attention-seeking in a campaign. Distinguishing yourself from the competition with a distinct tactic can work well, but ensure you have carefully considered how your audience will react to it and what message it sends out – particularly if what you are planning could be controversial. Forming a focus group with colleagues can provide valuable external insight and new perspectives into your campaign. Creating a storyboard in the planning stages can also help visualise and map out your messaging, thus making any potential pitfalls easier to spot.

Jawbone’s ‘Re: Your Dad’ Father’s Day email campaign

Email campaigns are a cornerstone of marketing, relaying content and messaging directly to a potential customer and hooking them into a lead funnel.

However, one of the major challenges with an email campaign is finding the right subject line to maximise open rates. Jawbone, a wearable tech company, decided that for a promotion around Father’s Day in 2016, they would use a subject line of ‘Re: Your Dad’. Seemingly innocuous at first, and with the personal touch we marketers should always aim to provide. But then consider this email was going to thousands of subscribers – with some statistically likely to have either experienced bereavement or estrangement from their father. After the email went out, many described the impact of receiving the email:

Email response from jawbone

A response to the email campaign on Twitter

  • Takeaway: Have at least 2 rounds of proof-reading and quality assessment on email campaigns. The original writer will benefit from a second pair of eyes, helping to pick up spelling errors, broken links, and (in the case of Jawbone) messaging that can be taken out of context / misconstrued. While making an email personable can greatly benefit its success, be careful not to become overly personal. Also by using ‘Re:’ when it’s not a reply to a conversation, recipients are more likely to be annoyed than convert.

Kendall Jenner, protesters, police and Pepsi

Big brands usually come with big name endorsements. In 2017 Pepsi were no different in hiring a celebrity model and professional Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, to appear in their advert. Pepsi’s aim was to ‘project a message of unity, peace and understanding’ by showing a group of protesters and police coming together over a can of their soft drink. This was at a time where protesters from Black Lives Matter were clashing with police. The advert showed Kendall Jenner emerging from the protesters and handing a policeman a can of Pepsi. In trying to make a comment on the current situation, the drinks company experienced a sizeable backlash, with the ad criticised for appearing to trivialise the Black Lives Matter protests. Pepsi later released this statement:

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position”

  • Takeaway: Whilst staying topical can give your campaign traction, be 100% sure about the current topics you choose to become involved in. And if you do choose to get involved, ensure what you are saying does not give off the wrong message. Employing an agile working methodology to ensure continuous feedback can be a great shield against this, by allowing ongoing evaluation of the messaging, direction and context of the campaign with the ability to shift any of these at pace.

Burger King and some important details about its plant-based burger

Vegan food, and culture, is on the rise and companies are clamouring to get involved. The ethical and environmental message that comes with an association with veganism is branding gold. Take Greggs for example. A bakery with a former association with a less-than-healthy lifestyle flipped its brand image on its head when it released its much-lauded vegan sausage roll. The celebrated marketing campaign played a significant part in that, playing off the product in the same way as an Apple iPhone or iMac.

Keen to join the wave created by Greggs, Burger King also released a meat-free product. The marketing was significant and very visible, and the product was marketed as ‘0% beef’ and ‘made from plants’. However, the product’s description also stated it was flame-grilled in the same broiler used for beef and chicken. By coming into contact with meat, the burger couldn’t be considered vegan or vegetarian. As a result, Burger King were accused on social media of being ‘misleading’ in their marketing:

Vegan complaint against Burger King

Twitter users were quick to point out the hidden reality of Burger King’s new product

  • Takeaway: While the campaign did not specifically say the product was vegan or vegetarian, it was described as meat-free and did use very similar messaging to those advertising a vegan product. The key thing here is to be clear in your messaging and be upfront with what your product is about. Don’t hide key details away and be sure the positioning of your marketing reflects the reality.

Dove asks customers to ‘choose their body shape’ on a bottle

Dove first launched its Self-Esteem project back in 2004, and has been synonymous with ‘body positive’ messaging. But even they have been prone to marketing slip-ups.

After a run of very successful ‘Real Beauty’ marketing campaigns promoting the acceptance of all body types, Dove launched the ‘Real Beauty Bottles’. The marketing declared that ‘beauty comes in all shapes and sizes’, and so the bottles of body-wash were designed to roughly correlate to a body type.

These included hourglass, pear-shaped, tall, thin, and teardrop. While this was meant to promote multiple body types, many consumers felt Dove was encouraging them to either choose their own body type or even aspire to a certain ‘bottle’. Dove subsequently released this statement:

Dove statement to body shape campaign

Statement from Dove

  • Takeaway: With longer-term campaigns, it’s easy to lose sight of the original message. Over time, messaging can become convoluted, especially if you’re bringing new ideas into the process. Always be mindful of what you are saying, and who you are targeting, at all points during your campaign. The creation of a storyboard and messaging log in the planning stages of the campaign allows you to refer back to the original and overarching message. Also, involving key stakeholders to review stages of the campaign can help keep the whole direction on track, and spot any potentially harmful deviations.
Matthew P5 mistakes that well-known brands made in marketing campaigns
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Building communications

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Why comms needs to be factored into your business transformation plans, right from the start

There can be few large businesses around the UK and beyond that have not already been through, or are currently going through large scale business transformation programmes. But how many have developed their transformation plans with communications factored in from the start? And how many add it as an afterthought when they are already some way down the line, having realised that change can’t happen without employee engagement? Communication is critical to any form of organisational change. Embedding clear processes around how and when you should communicate from the start will help get your transformation off to a flying start. 

There are two key areas where effective comms can make a real difference to the success of a transformation programme. The obvious one is when it comes to communicating out to the rest of the business and getting employees to change behaviours. But comms can also help in bringing together cross-functional teams and getting them working more effectively towards the same goal. 

Engaging your employees 

Communication plays a vital role when it comes to engaging employees around a large-scale business change. If you fail to communicate your goals and how you plan to achieve them, how can you expect employees to support and adopt the changes you are implementing? Many a digital transformation program has been viewed as unsuccessful because employees have failed to fully adopt new tools and technology or processes. 

So how do you engage employees? Firstly, it is vital that you understand your internal audiences. In a large organisation there will be different types of employees with their own challenges and requirements, so you will need to tailor your communications to different employees. There isn’t always a one size fits all solution.  

Avoid over reliance on email and make use of existing business collaboration tools. You should always make sure you are communicating via different channels to ensure that your message has reached everyone in your organisation. 

Two-way communication is crucial when it comes to engaging employees. Give your employees the opportunity to ask questions and to share their thoughts and feedback where possible. Face-to-face communication is always the best way to engage.

Louise Fisk, Communications and Marketing Director at BAE Systems suggests,

When that’s not possible you need to think about how you can use tools like video conferencing to bring people into the room.

Helping cross-functional teams work effectively 

During large scale business transformation, it is often the case that teams which don’t usually work together, will have to come together and form cross-functional teams. Open and transparent communication between both leadership and team members is crucial here.  

Hannah Bamberger, IT Communications Lead at Boston Consulting Group comments,

Where teams are cross-functional and often working remotely, it’s important to have transparent communications from the beginning to avoid any misunderstanding which may arise from not being able to see each other face-to-face each day and ask questions.

Matt Perry, Director at Transition15 suggests that,

Cross-functional team communications need to be built into the ways of working from the start. The mechanisms for regular communication should be agreed by the team so that they feel they are owning this process, rather than being told how they should do something.

It’s also important that leadership are clear in their goals and communicate them to their teams from the start so that they unite to achieve the same goal. A lack of communication coupled with an unwillingness to come together to work as a cross-functional team, can happen when leadership hasn’t communicated well around what is needed, and what the goals are from the beginning.

Hannah Bamberger comments, 

You often end up with the wrong thing being delivered or half way through a big transformation programme you realise it isn’t going in the direction it should be. At that point it’s much harder to recommunicate and get people to change direction.

There’s a high likelihood that change will fail if you do not communicate from the start. Employees need to feel part of the change as its happening and you will need to support people through the change curve, which can take time. If you get this right, then any future change is likely to run more smoothly and be successful. 

If communicating around change sounds like something you are currently struggling with, get in touch to arrange an employee engagement workshop, or a planning session for how to support cross-functional teams in working together more effectively. 

Sian HeaphyBuilding communications
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In-house vs agency marketing: Which is best for you?

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To compete in today’s markets, businesses need to be more adaptable than ever. Becoming a fast-growing business is the result of a range of factors, of which marketing plays a significant part.

(Check out our Marketing as an Accelerator eBook to find out exactly how significant marketing is for growth.)

But, is it better to have an in-house marketing team or outsource to a marketing agency?

1. Marketing Experts Vs Subject Matter Experts

In this instance, we would consider those in an agency to be holistic marketing experts, with internal employees more likely to be subject-matter experts, specific to their businesses.

Working on a variety of projects and executing marketing plans for a whole host of clients is what marketing agencies do best. The experience gained from working in such an environment is invaluable.

Agencies will naturally have a broader understanding of the market from exposure to other industry partners. This visibility can help shape and build strategies that make a client stand out from their competitors.

Having access to a wide network also provides agencies with flexible skills and a fresh perspective, whereas in-house teams often have funneled knowledge.

Arguably, internal employees are subject matter experts, establishing a deep-rooted understanding of the business as a whole. This in-depth knowledge can make for better business understanding and learning, but it has its limitations.

2. More Creativity, Better Results

In-house, a team will be focused on complying to core business strategies and delivering results. However, this internal focus can often cause teams to become shielded from external macro factors.

Through hiring an outsourced marketing team, it is possible to gain fresh perspectives, which can lead to invaluable insights into the latest trends within your industry. Agencies can provide a level of creativity that you simply may not be able to achieve internally – they can be your ‘creative thinking hat’.

Results drive business growth. It is important to ensure that your agency understands your business strategy in order to align marketing plans. When this is done well, an agency can become an extended part of your team – agencies drive results!

3. Time is Money

In most cases, having an internal marketing team means your approval process will be better streamlined. Fewer emails and more face to face conversations allows for greater visibility and reduced lead times.

On the other hand, by outsourcing to a marketing agency, a business is able to free up internal resources to focus on other business tasks. An agency allows you to sit back and focus on other business-critical activity, enabling your existing staff to become more efficient.

Some may argue it is more cost efficient to have an internal marketing team as there aren’t any rush or overtime charges. But, it has been found that agencies provide an average 9% monetary saving and a 15% average time saving precisely for those reasons. When there is a financial penalty for delays, you’re much more likely to move the project along rush faster than when you have all the time in the world.

4. Give Your Business Space to Grow

Growth, specifically fast growth, is a key strategic approach for many businesses to maintain competitive advantage in their industry. Why do some businesses grow quicker than others? Marketing.

Marketing is important for getting to those clients you don’t know.

The focus should also be on developing networks and building relationships with external stakeholders. Agencies have a large network extending to functions that may not be available in an in-house marketing team. They can provide stronger relationships with fewer suppliers.

The real result and key importance of using a marketing agency is freeing up your time to grow internally and externally.

So, what’s better, an in-house or agency set up?

The merits of in house are employees are subject matter experts, fully aligned to their business strategy. Not only this, but activity can be turned around quickly because teams will be working closely and managed by one senior management team. On the flip side, if you’re looking for an agile team, experts within marketing with a full resource behind them including content, studio, strategy and more, then agency is the way to go.

In reality, the sweet spot is somewhere between the two, and that’s what the Bright Virtual Marketing offering tries to achieve.

Bright’s hybrid model – bringing together the benefits of both internal and outsourced teams.

The Bright team acts as a virtual marketing department for high growth and dynamic businesses. This provides clients with their own specialised marketing manager and supporting team, backed up by other Bright resources – such as design, web design and build, branding, event support, etc. – as and when required.

We shape and execute marketing strategies designed to plug any in-house gaps and support business goals. We also focus on driving as much as value as possible for our clients. We find the best way to do this is to regularly spend time on our client’s site each week – so that we truly become a part of your team.

Using our Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) methodology, we fine tune each and every go-to-market message and campaign to get the best results possible.

By adopting a hybrid model, you are tapping into a dedicated team who work and learn from your own team to become advocates of your brand. This additional team takes on time-consuming tasks, so your business has the space to grow, whilst also providing a creative soundboard so you can take your business to places you may not have thought possible.

It’s like a match and a firecracker. You need to bring the two together to see the fireworks.

Visit our Virtual Marketing page to discover more about the services we offer.

Read more about how marketing is key to high growth and exit strategies in Bright’s new eBook: “Marketing as an Accelerator” – including commentary from business leaders and investors.

Chris PetherbridgeIn-house vs agency marketing: Which is best for you?
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Data…Data everywhere. What’s the right way to approach your reporting?

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Digital marketers are experiencing an “issue” at the moment. We have a substantial amount of data to analyse and use to our benefit. Definitely not a bad problem to have, as you would much rather have too much data than not enough.

Taking Google Analytics as an example, GA has a staggering 150 default metrics, which can be viewed through over 100 various dimensions. That is just the default settings, and does not include any advanced views, filters or implementations you may well want to setup.

Looking at social media, Facebook analytics exports a whopping seven spreadsheets with over ten columns of data, while Twitter analytics exports include up to forty columns of data.

That’s a lot of data to sift through! This can make it exceptionally difficult to choose one, or even a few, KPIs to really focus on.

You would think having access to such a wide range of data would make our marketing strategies easier, and this is generally true for larger companies who are able to outsource their data analysis to data science experts. These companies have indeed prospered, but the smaller businesses tend to struggle with where to start with this seemingly insurmountable mound of data.

In smaller businesses, resources tend to be much tighter and the luxury of spare time is sparse. The result of this is that employees don’t tend to digest the data, explore trends and ask questions. Instead, employees get into a routine of running the same reports over and over on a monthly basis, while not gaining much insight into what value the data at hand provides.

This is more common than not among small businesses, but there are steps and mindset changes one can take on to streamline your data reporting, to allow you more time to be inquisitive and find the value needed for your marketing strategies.

Marketing analytics is not rocket science, so don’t treat it as such.

Take A/B testing, also known as split-run testing, for example. It’s been around for what feels like decades now!

Have some ideas on how to improve your email? Go ahead and test it using various test buckets. Looks like our audience prefer our teal button more than our yellow button, great! How about our landing pages? Can we AB test our hero banner? Sure, why not. Let’s nail down what our audience responds best to.

Does A/B testing really represent how your customers respond generally, or just in that current moment they received your content? It’s difficult to tell and is why A/B testing can be so frustrating at times.

The results of the tests can often be inconclusive. Sometimes your test sample is too small to have a statistical weight behind it to make these difficult decisions. Other times, there are factors which are out of your control, that might influence your results, like a website loading speed issue.

The point here, is that A/B testing, or any other form of testing, may not yield the results for what works best from a marketing perspective. Having a controlled environment, like any scientific test, is paramount to obtaining an accurate depiction of your results. However, in Digital Marketing, controlled environments are few and far between.

These methods should not be discarded by any means, but we also need to be cautious when implementing them, because again, marketing is anything but a controlled environment.

Some metrics matter, others don’t.

Now back to those ridiculously large social media analytic reports. Here’s the honest truth: I rarely use even 50% of those metrics. Why?

Well, to begin with, it’s important you know what you are gaining value from when looking at these reports. Many metrics are just slight variations of themselves, or sometimes have very convoluted definitions as to what those metrics are. If they are too similar, or too vague I omit them from my report.

The fear of missing out is the real crux of the issue here. FOMO again.

Reporting on every metric available, due to fear of missing out on something, isn’t the best strategy, because it clouds the real valuable metrics. If a metric isn’t valuable, don’t use it, as it’s only going to make it more difficult for you to spot relevant trends in your data.

Just keep in mind that platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, although they provide you with endless amounts of data to sift through, only you and your business can know what’s really important.

It’s about the ingredients, not the meal.

Before you start cooking up an analytics report, think about the value you are hoping to find in the data. Play devil’s advocate and ask yourself what results you would expect to see if your initial conclusions were wrong.

In doing this, you’ll be much better suited to finding patterns and trends you may not have spotted with your initial conclusion-based approach.

Stop searching for the right answers, and look for the right questions

Question yourself, your approach and your data regularly. If you feel you’re eventually questioning everything, don’t be overwhelmed. You’re doing it right.

The world is changing constantly, along with the platforms we use and HOW we use them. Your perceived concept of the “right answers” may be true one day, and wrong the next.

Keep adapting and be open to change.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned working with digital marketing data, it’s that you have to be a perpetual sceptic. Of the metrics, of your reporting, of yourself.

Sian HeaphyData…Data everywhere. What’s the right way to approach your reporting?
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