On paper, social media marketing and other online marketing campaigns seem like a cost-effective way to reach a huge audience. If your campaign goes well, then it’s a great investment. However, a poorly thought-out campaign can quickly turn into a PR disaster. In this post, we look at some recent digital marketing campaigns that went wrong in a spectacular fashion.

Off-Target PPC

In February, Macy’s ran a PPC campaign on Facebook reminding people to get gifts for Valentine’s Day. However,  the US department store giant should perhaps have spent more time thinking about its target audiences.

It seems that Macy’s did at least use Facebook’s targeting options to reach people who had set their Facebook profiles to “in a relationship”. However, it did not target by gender, so everyone got a message imploring them to “Surprise him on Valentines Day” – even men who were in relationships with women. Given how people are accustomed to frighteningly accurate targeting on Facebook, this did not go unnoticed.

Content Marketing that Alienates Customers

Many people consider content marketing to be a key element of their SEO strategy, but there’s more to it than that. The content that you create shouldn’t be designed purely for SEO – it should be written with the expectation that a real human being will read it.

Content designed purely for search engines is usually boring, repetitive and difficult to read. In contrast, content designed by ad agencies to attract the attention of humans – the digital equivalent of waving your arms in the air and shouting ‘look at me!’ – often skews too far in the other direction, to the point of offending readers.

One recent example of this kind of marketing was the “Powerful Yogurt” campaign, which ended up being dubbed “Brogurt” by the media. The promoters of this yoghurt wrote at length about how “manly” it was: it comes in bigger servings, contains more protein per gram than standard Greek yoghurt and boasts ‘manly’ flavours. Admittedly, the entire campaign was perhaps somewhat ill-judged, but the choice to repeat the term ‘manly’ many times in the marketing copy certainly did not improve the reception of the product.

We’d never suggest that marketers shouldn’t take risks. However, it pays to hire a professional copy editor to cast a critical eye on your content – and to think carefully before making any jokes, lest they cause offence or expose your brand to ridicule.

Social Media Overdose

One thing that many companies forget is that their social media marketing strategy relates to, not to mention affects, all other brand marketing efforts. The WWE is one example of a company that has possibly gone too far with its social media efforts. Every single show and pay-per-view clip they run now pushes Tout (a micro-blogging video service) and references how whatever match is currently airing is “Trending Worldwide on Twitter”. It’s understandable that the company wants to build up its social media presence, but these constant references have alienated many fans who do not use Twitter.

If you want to build up your following on a social network, target users of that network, don’t try to push your presence on people who may not be interested. If someone comes to your seminar, watches your DVD, or tunes in to your YouTube channel, give them what they came for – not a sales pitch for your Twitter account.

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.