Marketing Campaigns That Don’t Hold Water

sony-street-artAlthough I’m sure there are some critics out there who would disagree, I’m a firm believer that the way you market your product is just as important, if not more important, than the actual product itself. However, as important as it may be, companies everywhere continue to take missteps in both the planning and execution phases and end up with egg all over their faces.

Fortunately, for those currently working on a campaign, or trying to compensate for one that went awry, there are ways to ensure your marketing efforts are successful, and here’s how:

Know Your Audience

It may seem like a no-brainer, but when it comes time to start drafting a marketing plan, it’s absolutely crucial that you know your audience. Whether you’ve been in your industry for a long time, or you’re fairly new to the scene, taking the time to familiarize yourself with current trends and climates can make a huge difference.

Giant companies, such as Sony, have mistakenly judged their audience incorrectly in the past and attracted backlash from the graffiti community in 2005 after they paid to have images of the PlayStation Portable spraypainted around New York City. Upon seeing the ads, people accused Sony of not only exploiting the arts, but also trying too hard to be cool.

Some consumers even took to the internet and started a petition to have the ads taken down, saying they would never buy a Sony product ever again. Now, that’s harsh.

Be True to Yourself

There’s nothing worse than a company with an identity crisis, especially if that company is fairly sizeable. I mean, I understand the need to reinvent yourself to avoid stagnation, but too often I see companies attempt to do this and either try way too hard or not hard enough.

In the case of Sony, I’d argue that they are a relatively youthful company. Their products are definitely marketed toward the young people of the world, and for the most part, the kids eat it up. But, at the same time, Sony has been around for a while now, and more notably than that, they are a massive corporation, which is why that whole graffiti campaign went over so badly.

That particular artform from its inception was designed to be a giant middle finger pointed at the man, not a marketing ploy used by big business to sell computers. So, when people saw the images Sony had people tag on different surfaces around New York, they weren’t happy. In fact, the same kids that had conned their parents into buying them PSPs at the time swore to never buy a Sony product again, thus damaging that brand relationship forever.

Use Your Head

Sure, it seems like common sense, but when it comes to putting together a marketing campaign, it is incredibly important that you use your head. Too often big companies with gigantic budgets and a team of some of the brightest minds in the industry, make really dumb mistakes and lose a lot of face with their customers in the process.

However disastrous as their graffiti campaign was, it wasn’t nearly as tragic as a radio contest in California that resulted in a woman’s death from water intoxication.

In 2007, radio station KDND 107.9 held what they referred to as a “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest where, as you can probably guess, participants were instructed to drink as much water as they could without voiding their bladder.

One of those participants was 28-year-old Jennifer Strange who, innocently enough, just wanted to win the gaming system for her and her family. Unfortunately for her, after winning the contest, she started experiencing extreme pain and even phoned a co-worker complaining about a vicious headache. No more than an hour, later she was found dead in her apartment by her mother.

Now, I’m going to let that sink in for a moment… a radio station, in an attempt to build some lackluster hype around one of their morning programs, led a group of unsuspecting individuals into an extremely dangerous situation, claimed to be in control, and inevitably caused a woman to lose her life.

It’s decision making such as this that truly baffles me both as a consumer and a human being. But, this is what can happen when a company gets blinded by dollar signs and their own inflated egos: people die. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but that’s why companies should really spend as much time as they can strategizing with their marketing team, honing the message they’re trying to send, and most importantly, considering how it could potentially affect the people they are targeting.

Don’t end up with a marketing mishap of your own. Utilize smart marketing, and when in doubt, go back to the drawing board and start again. After all, it could be the difference between life and death.

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