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Top Ten Marketing Mishaps to Avoid

Some funny and not-so-funny slip-ups we’ve noticed over the years.

Marketing Mistakes
Getty Images

“Strategy at every turn” is something I’m known for saying or advising and now, during this time of year, after the year we’ve all had, I’m saying it more than any other. You see, this is the time of year when we look back to look forward, to take note of what worked and what didn’t and plan for greater success in the future. It’s during these sessions that the good, the bad, and the ugly rise to the surface and, as much as we sometimes cringe at the notion, get scrutinized all over again. However, it’s from these sessions that we learn and grow.

As we begin to look back on the year that was, we tend to see trends or, rather, things that are often done or repeated that maybe shouldn’t be. Here are a few marketing or brand-related offerings that perhaps you can relate to and you might add to your list of things to improve on in 2022.

  1. The Misplaced Microphone and Widespread Man Spread: We love microphones. We love panels. We love seeing our friends and clients on panels, using microphones, sharing their astute wisdom, and inspiring others to get up on stage to do the same. What we don’t like is seeing our peers fall prey to unfortunate microphone placement — that is, extending from their laps. People of any gender: Watch where you put the mic! And, please, consider what others see when they’re looking up at you (and therefore, to you).
  1. Hot Water Hurts: We work with a lot of home technology integrators, some of whom take really excellent photos of their installation. They jump through hoops to get photographs and signed releases from clients, many of whom value their privacy. The mistake? They often leave the address or the name of the client (sadly, sometimes both) in the photo file name, which can lead to it getting online, which can lead to your clients being very upset with you and can land your company in some serious hot water. Change your file naming protocol to something that doesn’t name the client or the location of the project. While you’re at it, be sure geotags and related location-based data isn’t included in the metadata of the image. What’s that, you say? Read up on geotagging and be sure your team is onboard with the proper settings and approach to capturing images:

Also by Katye McGregor Bennett: Managing Your Local Presence

  1. Be Awesomely Inclusive: Speaking of panels, we know it’s difficult to make them diverse and inclusive in the face of a male-dominated, largely Caucasian industry. It is imperative to make the effort to include speakers from a range of backgrounds — from race to gender to cultural identities. But this of course does not simply start with making an active effort to showcase diverse voices on panels. It is crucial to start by familiarizing yourself with inclusive language through diversity and inclusion training so that you can implement it both in the messaging you present to the world and in the internal communications and training within your company.
  1. The Social Drunk Dial: We love a good and thought-provoking conversation on social media — after all, that’s what it’s all about. However, ranting on social media in comments is not only alienating for many, but you might also be embarrassed about it in the morning. By then, it might be too late. Way too late. A great rule of thumb and something that’s worked well for me over the years is to sleep on it. Like a bottle of wine, it’s often best to let thoughts breathe a little before unleashing them on the world. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
  1. The Glory Hog: Projects, products, launches, initiatives…they all take careful planning and orchestration, and that involves hard work by every team member. Don’t be the person that bogarts the publicity. Give your team and trade partners a pat on the back, and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due — especially on social media. That means giving photo credits and crediting architects, designers, builders, and other partners in your posts. Don’t forget to tag them too, they may reshare to a wider audience. While you’re at it, tag brands included (even those that play a smaller role — all should be included) and tag the area or geography for even greater post exposure and engagement. Oh, and, whatever you do, never, ever use someone else’s photo to illustrate the work you or your firm or brand does. Bad idea, always. Best to capture and promote your own work.

Also by Katye McGregor Bennett: Influencer Marketing – Is It time?

  1. The Invisible Integrator: There are some integrators who seem to be all over the place. They’re interviewed for articles, tapped for case studies, they’re on panels or podcasts, and they also seem to win all the awards. To be part of the conversation, you must raise your hand to speak. Part of that is highlighting all the great work you do by entering awards. Having written entries for these awards on behalf of many KMB clients, we know the entry forms can be intimidating and the time it takes can be extensive. Don’t let that stop you! Submitting the entry doesn’t mean you have to write it. There are great resources available who can manage the writing and wrangling of assets required (she says, quietly placing her business card into the palm of your hand).
  1. Don’t Be an Ass…: Ahhh, the beloved snippet. While it’s incredibly hard to predict how your social media post or handle will get cut off, they often produce snippets that will leave you in stitches. Associations have a particularly rough go of it. We’ve redacted some of the info in Figure 1 (below) to protect the innocent.
Marketing Misatkes – Cutoof Words Marketing Mistakes – Word Cutoffs
  1. The Impersonally Personal: Ever get an email that is intentionally designed to be “personalized” but is completely off-base? We get these mail equivalents of the cold call almost on a daily basis, and I’m sure you do as well. Little tricks include the “Fwd:” or “Re:” in the subject line, as if you had somehow already engaged in this conversation. There is also the dreaded “Your Name,” and then there are ones that are so personal, that they just come off as totally bizarre. We understand the value of making it personal, but unless your marketing automation is on point, we suggest that you either make it a plain-Jane mass email or make it truly personal!
Marketing Mistakes - Fake Personal
  1. Day (or Night) Drinking: If there’s one thing that’s haunted us over the ten years KMB has been in business, it is the ever-elusive and seemingly always-present water bottle. I mean, seriously, it has sometimes felt as though Aquafina had a rep there during the shoot, placing product in the background of the shot just before we’ve rolled cameras. Gah! So, learn from this and do as my mom harped on me and my brother for years to do. Develop the eye that sees! Before cameras roll, take one last look at the image that’s about to be captured. Does everything about it say what it should or is something out of place? If the latter, send the crew off on a coffee break and fix it. Trust me, the cost to “fix it in post” often far exceeds what it costs to proactively fix what’s on set. Once you develop the “eye that sees” you may not be able to turn it off. Apologies for that (but mama sure would be proud!).
  1. Less is More — Harness the Hyperbole: Boy, oh, boy, do some marketers lay it on THICK when trying to promote the latest “thing” to hit the market. We get it; when writing copy for a campaign it can be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement, but that’s how tragedies like Figure 2 happen.
Marketing Mistakes – Hyperbole

Similarly, we’re starting to see a lot of marketers use the phrase “Not to be overly dramatic, but…” as the lead-in to sell a service, platform, product…you name it. The problem is, though we’ve seen countless instances of this, we couldn’t begin to tell you the brand, the service, the platform, product, whatever it was that was trying to be sold. Point being, don’t fall into the trap of doing what others are doing simply for the sake of doing something. Take the time or invest the resources to create something unique to your brand that people will remember. Because, after all, that’s the point of marketing — to capture attention and get the clicks, you’ve got to be memorable.

Have some other examples to share? Send ‘em my way. Need help getting your message right? Drop me a line at [email protected]. I’m here to help!