Mar­ket­ing Mat­ters

There are worse things for a mar­keter than be­ing ig­nored

Alberta Venture - - Contents - By Kyle B. Mur­ray

There are worse things for a mar­keter than be­ing ig­nored

Abig part of mar­ket­ing is get­ting at­ten­tion. Peo­ple are ex­posed to thou­sands of mes­sages ev­ery day and break­ing through all that noise is no easy task. Suc­cess­fully en­gag­ing po­ten­tial buy­ers takes cre­ativ­ity and a deep un­der­stand­ing of the cus­tomer. As chal­leng­ing as that may be, it is the goal of many so­cial and new me­dia mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. As proof pos­i­tive, we look to the suc­cess of WestJet’s “Christ­mas Mir­a­cle” or Proc­tor & Gam­ble’s “Old Spice Man” and sing the praises of tech­nol­ogy that al­lows us to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with the con­sumer.

But, of course, not ev­ery at­tempt to break through all that noise ends well. In fact, big brand mar­keters reg­u­larly run aground on the rocky shores of new tech­nol­ogy. Take, for ex­am­ple, the time that Daniel Korell used his phone to scan a QR code on a bot­tle of Heinz ketchup. That code was orig­i­nally part of a pro­mo­tion that of­fered per­son­al­ized ketchup, but when Korell scanned the code he didn’t get his name on a bot­tle. In­stead, he was di­rected to a porn site. It turns out that af­ter the pro­mo­tion ended, Heinz failed to renew the do­main name. The com­pany apol­o­gized and Korell was more be­mused than of­fended. The er­ror that Heinz made, how­ever, is symp­to­matic of a gen­eral prob­lem: Mar­keters do not ap­pear to fully un­der­stand the risks of the tech­nolo­gies they are us­ing.

Even the world’s most ex­pe­ri­enced and so­phis­ti­cated brands have fallen prey to the siren call of so­cial me­dia. Coca-Cola had good in­ten­tions when it launched the “Make it Happy” cam­paign with a splashy Su­per Bowl com­mer­cial, de­signed to nudge the In­ter­net to­wards a more pos­i­tive tone. The com­pany en­cour­aged users to tag neg­a­tive com­ments with #MakeItHappy and then it turned those neg­a­tive com­ments into adorable ASCII im­ages. In re­sponse, the now de­funct web­site Gawker cre­ated a bot that tweeted out pas­sages from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. When Coke’s web­site con­verted that text into cute im­ages of dogs, cats and other char­ac­ters, the com­pany came un­der in­tense fire and was soon forced to dis­con­tinue the cam­paign.

Next ex­am­ple: McDon­ald’s serves mil­lions of cus­tomers, and many of those cus­tomers have fond mem­o­ries of time spent at McDon­ald’s. Fol­low­ing this logic, McDon­ald’s launched an on­line cam­paign ask­ing peo­ple to share their #McDS­to­ries. Un­for­tu­nately for the com­pany, that idea went wrong in a hurry as the hash­tag was swamped by neg­a­tive com­ments about the restau­rant and its food. One of the kinder tweets read, “One time I walked into Mc­Don­alds and I could smell Type 2 di­a­betes float­ing in the air and I threw up #McDS­to­ries.”

The Coca- Cola and McDon­ald’s sto­ries il­lus­trate the dan­gers mar­keters can face even when they are try­ing to have a pos­i­tive con­ver­sa­tion. Other com­pa­nies have brought the ire of the In­ter­net on them­selves when they use lan­guage and ex­press opin­ions that many peo­ple find of­fen­sive. Ken­neth Cole has on a reg­u­lar ba­sis used in­flam­ma­tory tweets to gain at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing such gems as “Black Pants Down – Our new looks are more slim­ming than a So­mali diet!” and, when ri­ots broke out in Egypt dur­ing the Arab spring of 2011, “Mil­lions are in an up­roar in # Cairo. Ru­mour is they heard our new spring col­lec­tion is avail­able on­line.” Mean­while, Bud Light is spend­ing a lot of money and ef­fort on its #Up­forWhat­ever cam­paign, even as it gen­er­ates backlash from stunts like en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to pinch oth­ers who are not “up for what­ever” on St. Pa­trick’s Day. Un­de­terred, Bud Light went on to re­lease a batch of bot­tles with la­bels that read, “The per­fect beer for re­mov­ing ‘ no’ from your vo­cab­u­lary for the night.”

Com­ing up with a great mar­ket­ing idea and then im­ple­ment­ing it in a way that grabs at­ten­tion in an over­crowded mar­ket­place is un­doubt­edly chal­leng­ing. Cam­paigns like “Christ­mas Mir­a­cle” and “Old Spice Man” are dif­fi­cult to repli­cate or even sus­tain. And it is prob­a­bly a lit­tle naïve to be­lieve that the on­line trolls and op­por­tunists are go­ing to go away any­time soon. But I do hope that more mar­keters will aim for the kind of suc­cess that WestJet had in 2016 with its “Fort McMur­ray Strong” Christ­mas mes­sage and that fewer will take the easy way out.

If the moral high ground is not in­cen­tive enough, con­sider the dam­age that can be done by a sin­gle poorly thought out so­cial me­dia post. For ex­am­ple, I sus­pect DiGiorno Pizza wished it had stayed off Twit­ter on Sept. 8, 2014. At the time, peo­ple were shar­ing sto­ries of do­mes­tic abuse un­der the hash­tag # WhyIS­tayed. Late that evening DiGiorno Pizza saw the hash­tag trend­ing and jumped on the band­wagon with “#WhyIS­tayed You had pizza.” Although they quickly re­al­ized their mis­take and apol­o­gized, the brand dam­age was swift and sub­stan­tial.

Clearly, there are worse things for a mar­keter than be­ing ig­nored.

McDon­ald’s #McDS­to­ries cam­paign went awry when the hash­tag was sw amped with neg­a­tive com­ments

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