A beginner’s guide to marketing: what to do when a campaign fails

Marketing is a complex discipline, and for small or new businesses getting your message and moments right can be a puzzle that even the biggest and best can get wrong. Tess Parajon takes a look at the basics of good and bad campaigns.

There’s no shortage of reasons why a marketing campaign might fail.

Perhaps your competitors had a bigger budget than you did, maybe your timing was completely off, or maybe your campaign wasn’t that great to begin with.

No matter what the reason is, you need to examine the situation from a variety of angles to see what can be learned. You don’t want a repeat performance of your failed marketing campaign, and a little investigation can go a long way in preventing similar events from occurring in the future.

Tess Pajaron - Open Colleges

Review Your Engagement

Years ago, Nesquik made up a hashtag for National Bunny Ears Day, a fictional holiday – nowhere near Easter – designed to promote the company’s product. Somehow. It created an app that allowed users to add bunny ears to their photos. It went nowhere, and the holiday was made up, and nobody had a reason to care about bunnies outside of Easter.

Nobody used it because it wasn’t relevant, and the campaign tanked. Nesquik let it go, and has since stuck with current hashtags to stay relevant on platforms like Twitter.

Nesquik bunny ears

If hardly anyone was exposed to your campaign content, of course you didn’t see the results you wanted. Look at your engagement metrics.

Social networking sites like Facebook offer these metrics, and Google Analytics can provide them for your website. If nobody saw your campaign, that’s probably the main reason why it failed. If people did see it, but didn’t care, that’s indicative of a larger problem. You’ll either have to make adjustments to spread your marketing efforts further, or change the way you market.

If you’re in the same boat as Nesquik, timing of your campaign can also be the culprit. Not only should your campaign be spread wide enough, you should also make sure that the themes of your campaigns make sense at launch time if you want your efforts to spread.

Compare Yourself to Your Competitors

This is especially important if you get the distinct impression that your competitors haven’t been dealing with failed campaigns. What are they doing that’s working for them? What sets them apart from you, and why would your target audience rather shop with them?

Look at their marketing efforts and understand their approach. If they understand your audience and you don’t, this can make for a problem that will follow you until the end. Always keep tabs on your competition.

Apple is a company that seems to have a stranglehold on the market for smartphones and tablets, and they would probably take over if it weren’t for aggressive marketing by other brands.

When someone is attempting to take you over, you have to rise to the challenge. Samsung, for example, released ads that were a direct product comparison between Samsung phones and iPhones and had some fun with online search results. There’s no doubt that pitting the products directly against each other gave Samsung room to shine by showcasing the versatility of its larger screens.

Judging by their current level of success, Samsung isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Research Your Demographic

In the ’90s, Panasonic wanted to step up its game by marketing home technology to younger, more savvy tech lovers. Its solution? Adopt Woody the Woodpecker as a mascot. This didn’t work out well for Panasonic, which failed to realise that the 20-somethings of the ’90s had long ago stopped caring about the antiquated cartoon character.

panasonic woody the woodpeckerThe campaign did nothing to boost sales because the demographic found it so unengaging; it didn’t speak to the market. Panasonic went back to the drawing board, learned about the people it wanted to sell its product to, and adjusted future campaigns accordingly. The company continues to thrive.

You could be trying to sell to the wrong people. Different generations, genders and subcultures have different interests. If your marketing efforts are too broad, only a small percentage of your desired customers are among the audience exposed to your marketing.

It may be time for focus groups or ad testing, if that’s within your budget. If it isn’t, spend more time talking to your repeat customers about why they enjoy spending money with you. Make efforts to tailor your marketing to what your customers want. If they have a need you’re meeting, try to find others with the same need.

Pick Your Campaign Apart

Analyse the language and the visuals you used. Why wasn’t your campaign appealing? If your ads read like a late night infomercial, appeared to be a scam, or made outrageous promises, nobody took them seriously. If you want people to view your ads in a positive light, you need to make them entertaining. Your ads should showcase you, rather than dumb you down. Always make sure you don’t come across as a snake oil salesman.

Nivea bio slim skin cream

Nivea once claimed that a lotion could actually cause users to lose weight by applying it. Many consumers laughed the claims off, fully realising such claims were impossible. To make matters worse, its claims were deemed fraudulent, and Nivea had to pay out a large sum in court.

Make Sure Your Campaign Delivers

Maybe you picked up a few customers at the beginning, but things trickled off. Word of mouth travels quickly, especially through social media. It’s reasonable to assume that if people were happy with their product or service that they’d mention it to their friends. But what if they weren’t?

Make sure the dilemma doesn’t actually lie in what you provide. You can have the greatest ad campaign but if your product or service is lackluster, the customers won’t come. You want to rule out lack of customer happiness as a possibility. It may be time for a satisfaction survey to make sure the problem doesn’t run deeper than just the marketing.

Retouching is common in cosmetic advertisements, which is why many brands expand their campaigns by sending promotional items to popular Youtube creators, who can demonstrate products and show real results. Consumers understand what they’re getting and can truly tell when a product delivers what it promises.

A failed marketing campaign is certainly disheartening, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s a learning experience that can provide you with the tools to make sure your next marketing campaign fares more successfully.

Tess Pajaron is a community manager and recruiter at InformEd Open Colleges


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