Marketing Blunders

Mary Gormandy White
Old Coke is the Real Thing

When coming up with creative ways to promote your business, carefully think through your plans to avoid marketing blunders that might cause more harm than good.

How Do Marketing Blunders Happen?

Many professionals don't stop and consider the full picture of how their marketing ideas will come across to the people they hope to reach. When coming up with creative ideas to advertise or promote your business, don't forget that you are not your target market. It's a serious error in judgment to assume that a marketing message will be effective just because you like it.

How to Avoid Blunders

A marketing strategy that seems to be a great idea when first conceived can actually backfire if you don't verify that it's appropriate and has a good chance of being effective with the target population before introduction to the marketplace.

The best way to sidestep marketing blunders is to avoid shooting from the hip when it comes to launching new marketing ideas. Marketing research is vital to the success of any effective marketing program. Verify your marketing ideas with consumers who represent your target audience to aver the possibility of backpedaling from a marketing mistake.

The availability of many different types of marketing research can help you figure out which marketing ideas might be home runs for your business and which concepts should be avoided. The only way to know how potential customers are going to view your marketing strategies is to ask them what they think.

Marketing research options include:

  • Focus Groups
  • Informal Interviews
  • Mall Intercept Surveys
  • Product Testing
  • Telephone Surveys
  • Many other options

Even if you don't have funds to undertake a formal research study on every marketing strategy you consider implementing, you can certainly ask loyal customers and people whom you hope will become customers to give you feedback on your ideas before you implement them. Your customers and prospects are likely to appreciate the fact that you asked for their opinion, so this research technique is a form of customer service with an added bonus of being an effective customer retention technique.

Real Life Blunders in Marketing

No Go?

The Chevrolet Nova was a great selling car in the United States. However, when the automobile manufacturer introduced the vehicle in Mexico, sales were dismal. Why? If you speak Spanish at all, you know that no va translates into no go. Who wants to buy a car that won't go? You have to consider the native language of your target customers when naming products.

Old vs. New

The Coca Cola Company spent a lot of time and money developing, distributing, and marketing New Coke only to discover that their customers were loyal to "old" Coke. Coca Cola drinkers are notoriously loyal, and had absolutely no interest in switching to a newer version of their favorite product. The moral of the story here is that change, just for the sake of doing something different, isn't a sound marketing strategy.

What's Inside

Gerber became a leading baby food manufacturer in the U.S. using packaging featuring the image of the well known Gerber Baby. When the company decided to launch it's product line in Africa, it used the same packaging that had been used for years in the United States. Conducting marketing research ahead of time would have revealed that African food packages usually feature pictures of what is inside the container. This, of course, explains why sales were sluggish. Using pictures of strained peas, carrots, etc. would probably have resulted in much higher initial product sales that photos of a real live baby. Failure to recognize cultural differences can result in a marketing disaster.

Know the Audience

A few years ago, when Medicare recipients needed to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug program of their choice, those in charge of marketing the program were puzzled regarding why a large percentage of eligible people had not registered as the deadline drew near. At the time, the only way to sign up for the Medicare drug program was via the Internet. Can you think of anything wrong with that concept? Many members of the Medicare-eligible population do not know how to use the Internet, and are not interested in learning how to do so. Once alternative means of registering for the programs were devised, signups progressed more smoothly. This situation demonstrates one of the most common problems leading to marketing blunders. Marketers have to consider the motivations, needs, abilities, and skill level of the target market at all times.

Important Lessons to Be Learned

While these examples of real life blunders in marketing might seem funny, the fact is that they represent very costly mistakes that actually happened. Each of these problems could easily have been avoided by thoroughly researching the target population's culture, needs, and preferences. If you think marketing research is too expensive for your company, stop and consider the real cost of marketing blunders before you make your final decision.

Marketing Blunders