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5 Examples of Really Bad Marketing [And How to Avoid Them]

Marketers today are more fortunate because the internet has catapulted their game to unimaginable heights. Before, advertisers had to put in extra work just to get their message to the right audience. What took hours or even days to accomplish can now be completed within a few minutes; work that formerly took tremendous effort to finish can now be done with just a few clicks. But, like any kind of progress, online marketing is also prone to backlash.

Because information can now be transmitted worldwide almost immediately, bad marketing tactics can cause a wildfire that can burn even the biggest brand. If you don’t want your hard work to go down the drain, learn these 5 examples of really bad marketing and how to avoid them.


Example #1: Failing to Understand Your Audience

Marketing should build a bridge that will connect a brand to its target audience. It is only imperative that a company that aims to make this affiliation should get to know the people it is reaching out to.

By understanding your audience, you will be able to target their needs and find a way to tell them why they need your product.

One brand that has failed to do this is Levi’s in its ad that was supposed to portray a healthy physical outlook. In its campaign line, the brand proclaims that hotness or attractiveness comes in all shapes and sizes. Yet, the poster that proliferated showed models of almost the same size and body structure:

The company received criticism because of its failure to deliver its message and connect to its market. Had Levi’s taken the time to get to know the demographics of its target consumers, this fiasco would have been evaded.



What Can You Do?

The more straightforward way to understand consumers is by communicating with them. After you’ve established the demographics of your target market, learn their intricacies as well. What are their likes and dislikes? What stories do they relate to? What are their goals? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you decide if a campaign will resonate well with them.


Example #2: Using Hashtags Unwisely

Hashtags are a gift of technology. They are helpful with organizing content and disseminating messages, however, this gift can also quickly turn into a curse.

This is what McDonald’s discovered in the #McDStories campaign. The aim of the giant fast food chain was to get people to share cherished experiences that highlight McDonald’s.

marketing fails

What the company did not foresee was that people would grab the opportunity to let them and everyone with social media know about their cringe-worthy McDonald’s stories.

Although McDonald’s promptly responded by pulling the campaign off only a few hours after its launch, people had already caught on the trend and turned it into a gag.

What Can You Do?

Test out a campaign internally before launching it into the public. Even if you are convinced that an idea is airtight, discuss its pros and cons with your staff. If you are working with an advertising company, learn to say “no” if you are uncomfortable with a campaign idea. You may be working with supposed experts, but remember that the repercussions of a project will affect your company.


bad marketing examples

Example #3: Steering Away from Your Values

Trends often set the advertising world on fire so it’s no wonder brands get caught up in the excitement and get tempted to join the bandwagon even when trends don’t have anything to do with them!

Sometimes, brands also tend to steer away from their core values and principles by using misleading ads.

This is what happened when Victoria’s Secret, a brand that supposedly celebrates women and femininity, decided to air an ad that denotes unhealthy expectations and perfectionism towards its clients.

failed marketing campaigns

Far from celebrating women, the brand alienated and offended many of its customers when it baptized its campaign as The Perfect Body.

What Can You Do?

Whether you have an in-house marketing team or are working with staffing agencies to produce an ad, make sure that everyone understands your company values. Before launching a campaign, deliberate if the project reflects the principles that your company stands for. Is the message consistent with your company values? Does the ad accurately represent your business?



Example #4: Sending Image-Based Emails

Email marketing is challenging because users can easily filter out messages they don’t want to receive. Now, email providers such as Gmail have even made it tougher by automatically categorizing emails from businesses as Promotions.

If you’re lucky enough to get subscribers or recipients who will open your email, make sure that the first few seconds you receive will get your message across. Using image-based emails is not the way to do this as some people have images turned off, while others may be using devices or connections that will prevent the image from loading properly.

marketing failure

What Can You Do?

Hire a content writer VA to take care of your promotional email. According to a report, text-only emails have a click-through rate that is 40% higher compared to image-based ones. If you want to incorporate pictures to your emails, make sure to use appropriately sized images only.


Example #5: Using a [email protected] address

Marketing is supposed to open a company’s door to its market. Sending messages through a DoNotReply or NoReply address is defeating this purpose as people will be unlikely to go out of their way to find your contact details and send you a message – unless they have a pressing matter at hand that demands action. This type of marketing tactic has zero engagement and can easily make your brand forgettable.

What Can You Do?

The apparent solution is to steer clear from using a NoReply address. Hire a virtual assistant to take care of customer correspondence if this will take much of your time. Email subscribers are tough to earn because they have high engagement. It’s only right to open lines of communication to them.

Marketing can be a two-edged sword that can make you a cut above the rest as easily as it can reduce your company to the ground. Luckily, you can tip the scales to your favor by knowing the 5 examples of really bad marketing and how to avoid them.


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P.S. Just to make sure you get the marketing agency WordPress theme in the right place.


Catherine vanVonno

Catherine vanVonno, the author, is the President and Executive Director of 20Four7VA, a global Virtual Assistant (VA) Service Provider. She holds a doctorate degree in Applied Statistics, Research Design and Program Evaluation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and has over 10 years experience in facilitating evidence-based strategic planning, product development, brand management, legislative communications, and medical policy. She is married and has four children. Reach her on LinkedIn.

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