Don’t Say It Unless You Mean It: 7 Marketing Fails to Avoid

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We’ve all had some experience with great advertising or marketing. 

That TV commercial that lights you up with wonder and anticipation. 

The email that seems to have the power to read your mind.

What is difficult in marketing is figuring out how to create that reaction. 

Most marketers start every project knowing their target audience receives hundreds of messages a day from brands. Many businesses put themselves out there in hopes of gaining some lasting attention and market share. This leads to some spectacular marketing fails.

In this article, we’ll walk through the seven most common marketing fails, why they happen, and what you can do to avoid them and succeed with your content marketing

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1. Don’t make your customers uncomfortable

The number one job of a marketer is to make your customers feel comfortable. 

This idea isn’t where most campaigns start. Sales numbers and other business goals are all important, but they shouldn’t form the foundation of your marketing. 

To get started, ask yourself- how do you build trust in your day to day relationships? You compliment people. Ask them in and offer them a chair. See if they need a snack or a glass of water. 

Great marketing needs to build trust, so make people feel comfortable.

It is easy to develop a marketing strategy that appeals to you, but that’s just internal bias. 

It’s far harder to reach the audience you’re hoping to engage while simultaneously delivering a compelling message. 

Sometimes marketers create great campaigns. And this often happens when messaging matches the audience that’s listening.  

Several notable ad campaigns have reaped the negative rewards of missing this critical element because they offended part or all of their audience. 

Case in point: Heineken and Dove.  

Before you put a campaign out into the world, pretend you didn’t make it. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Look at your campaign from the perspective of someone who grew up in a different place than you did. 

To avoid the dangerous edits that can creep in during the approval process, build target audience research into your marketing reviews. 

Find friendly ways to educate clients and leadership on the target audience. Netflix was stellar at this with their “Make Room

It’s easy for the wrong words and images to creep into campaigns and these steps can help your business avoid costly marketing errors.

2. Don’t overestimate your brand’s importance

You know your brand inside and out. You believe in it. Your closeness to your marketing can sometimes make it feel like your brand is ubiquitous and that all you need to do as a marketer is to shake things up.

But the average person sees thousands of ads a day. You may be familiar with your brand and products, but your marketing needs to introduce and reinforce your messaging to your customers. 

Find a way to show that your business is trying hard and believes in what they do. Create marketing that is exciting, but mostly earnest. Stay humble and show what your product can do

Have your marketing take an important stand, but don’t overstep your boundaries. 

For example, TOMS is known worldwide for their shoes and charitable campaigns.

In fact, the entire brand was built upon this foundation of charitable giving. 

So, when they do conduct large campaigns, it resonates with their audience authentically. 

But, consumers aren’t stupid. If your brand isn’t known or founded on principles like this, don’t jump on the bandwagon for extra publicity.

3. Don’t overpromise 

Your product probably can’t usher in world peace. Don’t promise a customer more than you can deliver, or offer them something that will cost them more in the long run. Keep your market promises within reason if you want to avoid big marketing fails and sustain growth. 

If you’re honest about your product and what it can do your customers will respond. Shoppers respond to authenticity and it builds trust. 

Talk to your current customers and staff and use those conversations to find some interesting stories. Those conversations might lead to some big ideas, or provide material that you can weave into your content marketing. Either way, it’s a win.

A great example of this is Apple’s Think Different campaign from 1997.

Strategically broad and open-ended in messaging, it can hold different meanings for different bases of consumers, providing endless inspiration. 

4. Don’t let design derail your marketing

We all know design is important. A sleek design makes the value of your marketing visual and easy to understand. But great website design is nothing without a good user experience. Don’t let design take over your marketing message. 

Again, it’s about making your customers feel at home. If your customers like your traditional serif font don’t shift to sans serif in your newsletter. Have you been using red as a dominant color since your company’s first day? Don’t change it to living coral just because it’s Pantone’s latest color of the year. 

To avoid this marketing fail, involve your designers in the marketing process from the beginning. This will help you keep your design on brand and in harmony with the thinking behind any campaign.

Read more: The 30 Best and Worst Rebrands of All Time [Infographic]

5. Don’t compromise brand integrity for publicity

We’ve all seen that sexy commercial or zany ad that got our attention. Crazy campaigns win awards, they make us laugh, and we see them every day.

But this tactic may not be right for your brand. In fact, it’s only often right for major brands with major market sizes. 

Marketing statistics show that while people remember these ads they often don’t always remember the business, and they don’t end up buying. 

A brand can easily do themselves more harm than good with a campaign that goes too far. For example, brands like Burger King have been in hot water in the past for racy ad campaigns.

To push boundaries just enough, really get to know your customer before you get wild. Think about what crazy humor makes your target audience comfortable and appeal to your niche.

For example, Lianna Patch of Punchline Copy is a prime example of balancing both humor and brand integrity.

6. Don’t neglect context and user intent

Context is a tricky thing, especially in digital marketing. 

Whether you’re evaluating the pop culture moment for campaign release or choosing the right hashtag, timing is everything. 

There have been some huge blunders in the last few years that are easy to avoid.

Mostly, it’s about slowing down and paying attention. 

There are a lot of great social listening tools that can help you understand the meaning behind certain hashtags or pop culture taglines. 

In addition to context, user intent is just as important. 

Depending on what keywords or niches you are targeting, you can’t just market your product blindly and expect good reception. 

User intent involves assessing what an audience is looking for from your ads or content and delivering exactly that.

Any mismatch can result in wasted money and potentially negative brand awareness. 

7. Don’t use emotional triggers the wrong way

Emotions are powerful. Grief. Sorrow. Love. It’s understandable to want to tap into that power, and to tie your products to significant moments in life. 

But remember, when you do, it’s important to be thoughtful. Using emotion in a way that feels artificial or forced can backfire on your business’ credibility.

Consider how the emotion you’re triggering relates to your brand and what your products do. 

Was your product made to help with an emotional problem or a sensitive moment? If not, you may want to try another direction for your marketing campaign.


At the end of the day, every campaign has a goal- brand awareness, more web traffic, higher conversions. 

Step back and look at the big picture. Pay attention to your customers if you’re going to take risks in your marketing while avoiding these marketing fails.

Get long-term ROI.

We help you grow through expertise, strategy, and the best content on the web.