25 Jun 2014

Ever put your foot in it? Beware the own goal in marketing.

When it comes to marketing, however, own goals can be immensely damaging. MRA's Kate Woodford looks at some of the worst marketing mistakes...

I’m no football fan but I do feel a twinge of sympathy for the poor chaps at the World Cup scoring an own goal in front of 3 billion people. At least Brazil’s own goal in the opening match didn’t cause them any long-term damage. They went on to win 3-1 against Croatia.

When it comes to marketing, however, own goals can be immensely damaging. The history of marketing is littered with mistakes, many of them just plain dumb, like Tesco’s ‘hit the hay’ tweet during the horse burger crisis. Others are down to being lost in translation. Electrolux’s Swedish marketing team thought they had the US market nailed when they came up with a ‘clever’ tagline for their launch campaign. Unfortunately they didn’t run it past any friendly Americans first. The line? ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’.

Whilst a lot of marketing blunders can be put down to just bad luck or bad timing, most stem from simply not thinking things through properly. For example, do you check what your press ad will be placed next to?

One mobile phone company was left red-faced when their ad featuring, you guessed it, a mobile phone, displaying the fairly innocent message’ I can’t stop laughing’ was placed next to an advert for disfigured children.

Of course the really savvy marketer can turn even the worst blunder into an opportunity. When United Airlines baggage handlers broke a customer’s guitar and then failed to reimburse him, the customer got even by recording a song about it. It was a social media hit, going viral with 1.4 million views in just four days. But the airline was one step ahead. Instead of making a song and dance about it and inviting more negative press, they decided to hand out free Starbucks gift vouchers to all their domestic flight passengers. Their line: ‘Forget your luggage. Have a coffee.’ The brand was rewarded with a sharp spike in its feel good factor as a result.

So if there’s a lesson it’s this: everyone makes mistakes, but next time, before you put your money where your mouth is, make sure you think it through first.

Kate Woodford is an award-winning copywriter and Head of Creative at MRA Marketing.

Got a question? Need help with your marketing? Give MRA Marketing’s Director Lucia Di Stazio a call on 01453 521621 or email lucia@mra-marketing.com.

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