5 Common Marketing Message Mistakes You Need to Avoid

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The task of encapsulating what you stand for via the perfect marketing message is a daunting challenge. You need to appeal to your target demographic by creating a clever statement that encompasses your brand’s identity and clearly conveys what you can offer.

Many businesses have the tendency to compromise their goals in creating this all-important message. The message can become too boring— and sometimes buried or lost, by focusing more on the business’s agenda and less on the customers’. At worst, a business can even alienate the very audience it is trying to court.

But the real question here is: Would you rather be remembered as an epic fail or something wonderful?

Social media marketing can be a minefield of terrifying traps seemingly designed to keep you from the wonderful. So, here’s a bit of disaster prevention for you; a list of some of the more typical social media marketing fails you’ll want to dodge while you’re building a reputation for your business online.

Messaging is Lost In Transition

The problem with most US-based businesses is once the message goes international, not enough thought is paid to how the intent will translate, literally or figuratively. This can result in a marketing campaign that lands with a resounding thud on foreign shores. In more extreme cases it can even be offensive.

For instance, when Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) launched its first franchise in China, the famous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” was accidentally translated to “We’ll Eat Your Fingers Off!” which certainly frightened customers.

Marketing Fail

Source: http://9gag.com/gag/6564095

It may sound great in one language, but if translated mechanically and without cultural context, it can be fatal for your business.

Another example is when Coors translated a slang phrase “Turn It Loose” into Spanish, which turned out to be an expression that meant “Suffer from diarrhea.” For that, Coors left a unintentional and perhaps unforgettable mark on its Spanish audience.

And Parker pens got the attention of their foreign female customers when the popular slogan, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” was translated for a Mexican ad as “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”


Source: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/fact-fiction-international-expansion-blunders-list

Not Humanizing Your Message

Don’t forget who it is you need to hear your message. To generate a message with impact, you’ll need to understand how it can be meaningful to your target audience. You want to create a “pull.” Building a connection with your prospects is way better than simply handing them the information, right? By doing so, you let them figure out how your products and services can be valuable to them.

From The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, it was cited that a high number of respondents resonate more to humorous (47%) advertising messages, closely followed real-life situations (46%).


Source: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/reports/2012/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html

Good Deed Gone Bad

Another thing brands should avoid is using charity or any tragic event as a promotional opportunity. Exploiting cancer, AIDS, poverty or sensitive issues can only put a dent on your reputation.

It is utterly wrong no matter what angle you choose. There should be an adequate application for sensitivity.


Sources: https://www.facebook.com/lowcostholidays, https://www.facebook.com/papajohns, https://www.facebook.com/Durex

AT&T also felt the “burn” when they tweeted a post regarding the 9/11 tragedy. It wasn’t well-received by their followers and caused them to delete the post. The same goes for Kmart, after sending a tweet meant to pay respects for the Newtown shooting incident in which they mistakenly [and shamelessly] plugged a promotional hashtag #SMH.



Of course, it also pays to be attentive if you’re going to use trending topics. Celeb Boutique committed an embarrassing fail when they connected a trending hashtag with their same-named product, apparenntly unaware that it was about the Aurora shooting.

Not Being Sensitive Enough

Highlighting gender differences can be a funny way to create loyalty for your product. However, if not executed with the right amount of sensitivity, that approach can have the opposite effect.

One harsh post from the Abu Dhabi distributors of Subaru recounted a terrible accident and attributed it to women. It clearly wasn’t a brilliant idea, so they apologized after being heavily criticized by social media users.


Image Sources: https://www.facebook.com/subaruemirates

Using Social Media Features Incorrectly

Since the dawn of social media marketing, countless companies have attempted to get exposure via social media sites. Some have been successful, some, not so much…

Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) wreaked havoc when Academy Award Nominee Woody Harrelson hosted one— and it remains infamous in Reddit history. Apparently, the users weren’t happy with Harrelson’s AMA chat and got the impression that the movie star was just using the site to market his project. Collective criticisms were aimed at Harrelson and his upcoming movie.


Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/p9a1v/im_woody_harrelson_ama

Hashtags Gone Wrong— When McDonald’s Twitter campaign, #McDStories, meant for users share nostalgic memories and experiences in McDonalds, it took an unexpected turn when users started to share unfortunate and horrific tales instead.


Source: https://twitter.com/search?q=MCDstories&src=typd&f=realtime

You know there is something bad bound to happen with Automated Tweets/Responses. An infamous example is when AmericanAir replied to every tweet even unpleasant ones, consequently blurring sincerity and attentiveness on customer feedback.


Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/american-airlines-will-respond-to-every-tweet–no-matter-how-offensive-2013-2

To sum it all up, one of the keys to building—and maintaining—a successful brand is knowing and catering to your audience. The truth is, there’s real potential to do crash-and-burn damage in every marketing campaign. However, taking the time to get to know who you want to reach, what you want to say, and how it will be best received, can help you get your message out while avoiding any dents or dings to your image.

Kristel Cuenta
Kristel Cuenta is the Social Media Manager for Kairay Media, a Social Media Marketing company. When not on Social Media sites, Kit manages a number... Read Full Bio
Kristel Cuenta
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  • Muhammad Atif

    I agree with you Kristel, these things always misguide the audience and make a bad impression when you are doing marketing myopia and don’t know the impression it will set in the perception of the audience. Brands do such things but we always need to get the best strategy according to the demographic and geographic nature of the target audience. I have never seen the mistakes of these big brands and its really interesting facts for me.

    • Muhammad, totally! In most cases, brands who submit to marketing myopia either fall under the shadow of mismanagement and never recover after the damage done. Just plain scary.

  • Great post Kristel !!!
    I completely agree with all your points but there is one more common marketing mistake I would like to share : Marketers continue to think that the best way to get the biggest bang for their buck is to include as many words as space allows. The opposite is actually true.The expression “less is best” has many applications, marketing being one of them. The human brain can only focus on and remember so many things.The more you include in your marketing message, the more likely you are to have to the most important part of your message lost.

    • Thank you, Nisha! Yup, as the cliche goes, less talk, less mistake 😉

  • Great fun post. The Woody Harrelson thing is a disaster. As if he’d use exclamation marks of excitement! He must be so rad! The translation issues have been a problem for some time. Being a bit of a nerd, I grew up playing NES games. Most of them were from Japanese developers, and the Nippon to English translation was often disastrous. “I am Error.” is the most famous example, along with numerous inventive versions of “Congratulations”.

    • Thanks, Alex! Glad you enjoyed this post! Yup, language barrier may tend to be funny at some point! The examples above were just some of them, but pretty sure, there are a lot of more!

  • Awesome Article….You had done the nice job here. Also, you are mentioned the each point with the images, its too good to grab attention on the errors. Thanks for this valuable information about Marketing Message Mistakes You Need to Avoid.

    • Thank you Shailesh!

  • You knocked it off again kit. Another insightful examples why we should be paying close attention to what we publish.

  • Thanks, Louie!

  • I had a great time reading your article. The idea behind a social media mistake is once it is done there is no way back. And it can turn very bad, like Mac Donald or American Airline. Recently the lights of the marketing mistakes were on JC Penney , when they drunk tweeted at the Super Bowl. The more social we get, the more viral the mistakes.

    • Agreed, especially on the last part .