How to Avoid Marketing Horrors (Steve Lundin of BIGfrontier to AMA Phoenix)

June 22 AMA Luncheon Speaker Preview:

June 22 Presentation Recap:

Steve Lundin of Chicago-based BIG Frontier broke down the mistakes, assumptions, unintended consequences, frequent hubris, agency-client bickering and unpredictable aftermaths of a variety of recent major marketing snafus, gaffes and cultural or jargon misappropriations. With each prominent marketing horror story, Lundin provided a key adage to summarize where the thinking and  marketing ran amok.  He took the audience back to the days of the Tylenol scandal to the infamous New Coke controversy and up to today where “celebrity brands” fall fast in crisis by compounding mistakes with cover-ups and lies instead of getting in front of it and steering the issue toward a better resolution. You probably will recall most of these cases, so this will be a succinct postmort.

1. The Redner Group – PR agency Tweeting blunder surrounding client’s new video game receiving unfavorable review.  Steve Says: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” (also a nod to Ice Cube?)

2. Burson-Marsteller-Facebook Dustup – Developing a smear campaign by pitching negative vibes without specifics for “mystery client”. Steve Says: “Secret Services” don’t play well with the press.”

3. McDonald’s uses “I’d Hit It” and “I’m A Dollar Menu Guy” on ad campaign.    Do a little research on jargon or cultural references before deploying.  Steve Says: “Know Your Hip Limits. Study slang before you sling it.”

4. The New Coke fiasco (going back to the old school – 1985) – Just like the old “Build a Better Mousetrap” analogy, sometimes better just isn’t. Just because a focus group preferred the flavor of a new formula doesn’t mean you should discard your reliable brand. Research in a vacuum doesn’t translate well into the market when you have well-established brand equity. Steve Says: Too much data Can Spoil the Brew”.

5.  The 2008 Cartoon Network “robot bomb scare” in Boston – The assumption that any press is good press  and all press is equal is not always valid.  Steve Says: Consider potential interpretation of your message in environment/culture/sign of the times.”

6.  Burger King “Texican” Whopper campaign with “spicy little Mexican” in U.S. and Mexico and  Hindu Goddess hovering over burger campaign in Spain.  Steve Says: Be aware of cultural sensitivities in your messages. Don’t use stereotypes to sell, gaffes result.

7. Groupon’s Tibetan Super Bowl ad meltdown. Agency-client finger-pointing ensued. Groupon lost a lot of goodwill. Steve Says: What if nobody gets the joke?

8. Pepsi’s AMP “How to Score” application for guys at the bar. Steve Says: “Sometimes it is better to leave the bar humor on the cocktail napkin”.

9. Don’t mess with mommy bloggers; they are like a massive union full of solidarity. Motrin’s ad “accessorizes the carrying of babies”.  Steve Says: Diffuse the issue on social media but bring the conversation to your web site, in your space (have a forum for comments). Have a genuine response from a senior representative so that it doesn’t appear to be brushing them off and further escalating the negativity.

10. The Walmart “Flog” (fake blog).  Some journalistic digging uncovers “amateur travelers” camping out at Walmart stores and documenting their experiences were in fact professionals funded by a front of the company’s agencySteve Says: You can’t keep secrets too long on the web, they will be found out.

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