4 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Marketing Strategy


It’s incredible how, even after all these years with digital marketing arousing all kinds of desires inside us, companies of all sizes are still making mistakes. It’s as if they are blindly putting out campaigns in a hit-or-miss strategy. In a certain sense, it feels like making mistakes in marketing is part of the trade. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m not one to say that you could get rid of all marketing mistakes – you’ll definitely make some. But there are some that are notoriously common that could be avoided if you knew what’s causing them. In fact, the reasons for certain mistakes are so well-known that, if you’re making them, you aren’t having bad luck – you’re sabotaging your strategy.

Here are some of the 4 most common ones.

1 – You Don’t Truly Understand your Audience

One of the first things all marketers do is create an outline that lists the basic traits of the target audience. Who is the product for? Who is the one on the receiving end of all the marketing messages? Answering that is essential for your company, whether you own an online chocolate shop, are part of a company outsourcing IT services, or you are just offering your French translation services.

Understanding who your target audience is, what motivates them, how they behave and talk, and how they live their lives is key to marketing. However, even when you study all those, you might still get things wrong and make a colossal mistake. Remember the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad? That’s a perfect example of misunderstanding the audience.

Pepsi thought that by putting a well-known influencer in a “woke” context, it could fire up their centennial audience. What that audience saw, instead, was a greedy tone-deaf attempt to grab their wallets. In theory, all the appealing things that could entice centennials were there – the protests, the diversity, the smartphones. But it all felt so obviously forced that audiences weren’t impressed. Quite the contrary.

Misreading the audience is a ubiquitous danger. The countless brands that have attempted to use memes for marketing are there to prove it. Don’t try to act like something you’re not because you imagine your audience will like it. Instead, create your campaigns out of informed reports on who your audience is – and test it all, for God’s sake.

2 – You’re Too Short-sighted

It should be obvious that companies don’t try to enrage their audiences (at least, that’s what I want to believe). However, they end up inadvertently doing so by not reviewing their work long enough. As incredible as it may sound, a lot of campaigns are evidently offensive but get greenlit anyway.

How can that happen? Well, even when a lot of people review all marketing materials before releasing them to the public, sometimes they aren’t looking at the right places. They are too short-sighted to notice glaringly noticeable red flags and only worry about things like the photo, the colors, the composition, or the typos. The result? Something like the ad that Nivea put out in 2017.

The skincare brand briefly posted an image on Facebook to advertise their new invisible antiperspirants line. In the photo, there was a caucasian woman wearing white, bathed in sunlight and accompanied by a photo of the product. The copy? White is purity. You don’t even need to see the ad to see what’s wrong.

(Fabian Bimmer/Reuters)

Nivea quickly pulled the ad but the backlash was massive, to the point where white supremacy groups claimed the brand was clearly supporting them. I’m guessing that wasn’t the message the company wanted to convey. How could they be so oblivious, then? Because they were short-sighted enough to only focus on the concept: yeah, Nivea products might bring purity to the skin but maybe they shouldn’t have phrased it as Nazi propaganda. If only they’ve talked to people outside their creative team…

3 – You Blindly Follow Trends

I get it – there’s so much going on around us that it’s hard to keep up. That’s why, in an effort to stay relevant, you might have considered the latest trend or discussion to give your brand a boost and more visibility. The thing is that, if you don’t know what the trend is really about, you’re bound to fail – hard.

If you don’t believe me, at least google one of the many, many, many examples of companies trying to jump at an opportunity without realizing what they were getting into. The most obvious examples come from Twitter’s trending topics, where a list of popular hashtags are a sure-proof way that people will at least scan past your message (provided you include one of those hashtags, that is).

Probably one of the most remembered hashtag fails was the one made by Entenmann’s, the baked goods company that tried to sell more products using the hashtag #notguilty in what they thought was an innocent way. Unfortunately, the hashtag was trending because of the non-guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony case. The whole thing could’ve been avoided just by looking at what other people were talking about.

The take here is clear. It’s not necessary for you to be present in every trend. Sure, you might feel tempted to jump on a trending topic, a new technology, or a new meme that’s sweeping the nation. But before you do, ask yourself if you truly know what you’re getting into and if your brand truly belongs there.

4 – You Encourage Trolls

The internet trolls are a ubiquitous presence that your brand will definitely meet at some point or another. It doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter where you post content, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to please everyone – trolls will find you and try to rile you up. The old internet adage “Don’t feed the trolls” should be enough to keep them at bay: ignore and they’ll go away.

However, there are times that brands don’t understand that you can feed a troll even without getting into arguments with them. Burger King’s OK Google campaign, in which they asked Google Home devices to read the whopper burger ingredients is a great example. Whenever the ad ran, any nearby Google device with speech recognition abilities would instantly lookup for the Wikipedia description of the Whopper and start reading the ingredients aloud. Of course, once trolls noticed that, they started changing the page at will, making the devices read all sorts of offensive things.

Hashtag-based campaigns are also prone to internet trolls. Qantas’ #QantasLuxury campaign, which asked people to share their experiences with the luxury of the Australian airline, backfired spectacularly. Why? Because people with real complaints got mixed up with trolls and flooded Twitter with acid, sarcastic, and problematic responses.

Basically, all of this could have been avoided if someone would have thought beyond the positive and considered that the internet, after all, has a lot of bad people that will act upon any opportunity you give them.

Some Final Words

As you can see, all of the examples I gave you could have been avoided just by paying more attention. That’s why the best thing you can take from this article is just that: if you’re about to launch a marketing campaign, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Review everything, think outside the box, consider other perspectives.

Oh, and do so for all companies you put out, even the smallest ones. You don’t want to become the company that’s known for a single racist, discriminatory, tone-deaf, or plain offensive tweet. And don’t think for a second that you could get away with something because of your industry. People that buy chocolate or that are looking for IT outsourcing companies might be different in some way, but the things I’ve listed here bother them all.