We’re all guilty of the occasional bout of marketing Schadenfreude – but we’ve also probably had the odd campaign or two of our own when things didn’t go quite to plan. blur Experts talk about those well-known marketing moments when things don’t quite go to plan.
The worst marketing effort I can recall is a legendary story from quite a while ago, and was really a lack of research and local cultural awareness. When General Motors’ Chevrolet division launched a new mid-sized model called the Nova, after a superfast shooting star, hoping it would resonate with consumers seeking something fast and futuristic. The formulated print ads, mailers, TV commercials and worst of all, bill boards. The car sold very well in the US, but when they wanted to penetrate the Latin American market, no one in the marketing department did their homework. A quick rebadging would have saved the company many heartaches and a boatload of cash. They went ahead and launched the car as the Nova in Spanish speaking countries throughout Latin America, and after six weeks recognized that there might be a problem reflected in their dismal sales reports. It didn’t dawn on anyone at the company that NoVa in Spanish means “doesn’t go!”
Huge billboards lining the roads in Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador promoting a car that doesn’t run! Finally someone pointed out their error, and they pulled the car and killed the campaign locally. It pays to do your homework.
We had one fairly significant snafu, but it wasn’t a strategy error, it was a relatively simple technical glitch that cost an awful lot of money. We were launching a new financial publication, aimed at investors, and using a series of direct mail pieces, multi-piece packages mailed in the millions. As you might imagine, a large chunk of the addresses on the target list were linked to the financial industry, centered in Manhattan, NY. One of the largest buildings in New York City at the time was the World Trade Center, which leased office space to hundreds of financial firms, and was so large that there had to be an additional line of address added for a mail stop number, so that the building’s mailroom could deliver efficiently. Someone in the data processing department was tasked with printing off a set of labels for this list, which numbered over a million records. The technician had a tough time fitting the addresses using our standard font, labels and software due to the extra address line – so he took it upon himself to eliminate the third address line – the mail stop. In five days our lobby was filled with commercial laundry carts full of undelivered mail, nearly 50% undeliverable! The entire World Trade Center had denied the mailing as ‘inadequately addressed’ without the mail stop line, and the post office, having a standing order on the account to return ‘undeliverables’ for address correction, returned all the mail to us! We made the technician open all 500,000 packages, salvage the guts, and re-run all the letters and new labels.
The devil is in the details when executing marketing tactics, and it doesn’t take much to reduce your plans to rubble. The best marketers are detail people that stay on top of the small stuff to make the big stuff flourish!
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