Political gaffes follow a candidate from one campaign to the next. The campaigns of Romney, Biden, Clinton, Quail and Bush all confirm this. Remember Bush’s premature use of the phrase “Mission Accomplished”, Quail’s misspelling of “potato?” or even Clinton’s more famous situation that isn’t appropriate for this posting. A misspoken word or an entire scandal can take an entire mission off focus.
The same can be said for the million dollar blunders made by the five marketing giants below.
One of Turner’s cartoon networks launched a guerrilla marketing campaign in 2007 that involved putting LED signs throughout the city of the flashing cartoon man. A Boston resident thought it was a bomb and called the police, which resulted in the shutdown of public transportation system and a $2 million fine requiring Turner Broadcasting to compensate the city for its emergency response time.
Gap & Coke
In 2010 Gap updated its logo design in an effort to appeal to a hipper audience. Gap switched back to its original logo within two days because of the backlash from its true audience of people who love their basics and aren’t trendy people. Who knows what the logo change and change-back cost Gap, but it probably was at least a million-dollar lesson to stay true to its loyal customers.
Gap’s gaffe proves that history does repeat itself. Remember Coca-Cola’s similar gaffe in 1985? Coca-Cola launched New Coke in an effort to keep Pepsi from gaining market share, only to enrage its loyal customers who began hoarding the original Coke formula and selling it on the black market for hefty prices.
To extend their social reach, Timothy’s offered a coupon or a free sample for following them on Facebook or Twitter. The campaign was so successful, Timothy’s ran out of k-pak cups and later posted that free samples would be given out on a first come first serve basis. This went over like a cup of truck-stop coffee and despite an apology video; they were unable to recover from the gaffe of not being prepared to fulfill their published offer.
When Pepsi chose to pursue the International market of China, it failed to check the translation of its tagline, “Pepsi brings you back to life.” The phrase translates to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” You may be laughing, but the marketing department and CEO of Pepsi weren’t. They were humiliated for not pre-flighting the phrase with native speaking Chinese customers. The cost of reprinting point of sale banners, signage and advertising cost just a hair more than the disgrace of Pepsi’s international gaffe.
Marketing Gaffe Prevention
While to err is human, there’s plenty of ways to reduce the margin for error. Here are a few suggestions to implement before you make history with a mega-marketing blunder.
Check your list twice
Don’t hit “send,” until you’ve checked your send-to list two or three times. Remember the agency employee who accidently dropped the F-bomb on Chrysler’s Twitter channel, thinking he was sending to his own peeps. Whoops.
Engage more eyes
Despite spell check and proofing, mistakes slip into marketing pieces because the individuals working on the piece go blind to their copy over time. Put a multi-tiered proofing team in place, as well as a pre-flight process for all your printed pieces and posts.
Take people out of the process
The beauty of print automation, is you do all the testing and proofing upfront (perhaps even for six months), but after that, all the data is pulled directly from your CRM or database and goes directly into the brochure, catalog, coupon, or direct mail piece, which eliminates the chance of human error. Print errors can cost a company millions. Verify your data, and partner with a company well versed in printautomation if you need the assurance of 100% accuracy in your mailings.
In Philip B. Crosby’s book, Quality Is Free, Crosby estimates that the cost of quality for any company is 25 percent of revenue. Certainly far from free, but his book led to the “zero defects” movement that later was replaced by the Six Sigma movement because companies realized perfection was impossible. Six Sigma organizations are a bit more realistic, allowing an error rate of one in 1 million or less.
Whatever movement you’re following or quality assurance practices and systems you have in place, an error is costly to a company’s profits and reputation. Share your marketing blunders and any that you’ve headed off at the pass in the comments below. We’re all in this together.