The Wrong Message, to the Wrong Person, at the Wrong Time

Relevance is the key to marketing. As marketers, we strive to serve up the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

But what happens if we get it all wrong?

I was at a conference last week in San Diego, and just this morning, I received a post card mailer with a headline that read, “Don’t be in Last Place!” The subtext told me to stop by a vendor booth at the conference—but the conference ended last Wednesday. Failed! The irony is that this vendor was in last place—their message didn’t arrive until after the conference was already over.

The offer on the flipside of the post card told me, “Be a Winner!” and talked about how I could win an iPod touch. Failed! Obviously, I am not a winner—I didn’t get the iPod touch. In fact, I didn’t even know about the contest.

Just a few years ago, the damage that this type of marketing blunder would have caused would be limited to probably me, a few of my associates around the office, and maybe a few of my colleagues that I would have shared this with.

But today, in the age of the democratized media, where anyone with a blog, Twitter following, or Facebook account can instantly syndicate any message around the world, this type of blunder can prove to be very costly.

Take the example of the ad agency exec that didn’t realize his role as an ambassador for his brand (and they’re supposed to be in the brand-building business right??) and became the subject of international embarrassment to his company by posting a stupid comment about a client’s home town (read the whole story here).

The key takeaway in this example is summarized in the following statement published by the ad agency’s client:

“This lapse in judgment also demonstrates the need to apply fundamental communications principles in the evolving social networking environment: Think before you speak; be careful of you what you say and how you say it.”

So the moral here is simply this: when thinking about your marketing strategy, make sure that you approach it from a defensive perspective as well as an offensive perspective. There are just too many people out there that can potentially give you brand heartburn by using your marketing mistakes against you.


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