Here are three failed marketing initiatives I experienced this week:
1. Be Careful How You Ask Me for Money
My college sent me a letter telling me to be on the lookout for a letter from two alums. I had a feeling the second letter would be asking me for moolah. I was correct. However, this second letter was printed on three pieces of paper–front side only. The letter could have EASILY been printed on one piece of paper, using both sides.
Failed Marketing Takeaway: Do not waste paper and then ask me to make a three-year monetary “gift” commitment.
2. Audience Rules
A marketer created a print ad for a local publication and wanted me to “spruce up” the copy. After asking him for the pub’s demographics, he sent me census data on the town in which the publication appears, as if that info would tell me who reads the publication (as Dave Barry would say, “I’m not making this up.” I went to the publication’s website and downloaded the info myself. Yes, this is the same marketer I wrote about here.) The ad included the company’s “credo” and a picture of the owner and staff. The credo was written in a “We/they” format:
We see our patients as individuals with specific needs and goals; we believe in providing our patients with the best possible care–always.
The tone was really distant, despite the inclusion of first person. I suggested turning it to “you,” as all good advertising copy should ultimately be about YOU, the prospective customer:
We see you as an individual with specific needs and goals; we believe in providing you with the best possible care–always.
This change alone makes the copy better (and not because it was my doing). However, the marketer said he wanted it to stay in third person because “that’s how credos are written.”
Failed Marketing Takeaway: Comes down to the same stuff I’ve told my writing students over the years: yes, you need to learn the “rules.” But once you do, you also have the authority to break them. When breaking the rules, understand your motivation. If it sounds better to start a sentence with “And” or “But” or (gasp) end a sentence with a preposition, then do it. I’d have been okay if the marketer had said, “Gee, I thought it sounded better in third person.” (I would have disagreed, but that’s more of a judgment call.) Saying we couldn’t do it because of a rule is just plain dumb. (And in advertising, the only rule you need to remember is that your audience rules.)
3. “Preview” Buttons Exist for a Reason
I just received an entirely image-based email that I was very interested in clicking on so that I could learn more about the offer. However, the only thing clickable in the entire email was the unsubscribe button.
Failed Marketing Takeaway: Test, test, test your stuff–be it web pages, contact forms, emails, etc.–before you send it to the masses.