Examples of digital marketing fails (broken windows)

The last time I gave a workshop on the Broken Windows Theory and how it related to marketing, a participant gave me feedback that I needed to include more web-based and digital examples. And, she’s absolutely right.

So to fix that, I’ve started collecting digital examples of broken windows. Taking inspiration from one of the blogs I read for fun, McMansion Hell, I’ve added parody comments to the photos.

Without further adieu, enjoy!

Priority Pass website with residence spelled incorrectly

Another fun fact about this one: I was nice and emailed their support department over a month ago and let them know about the typo. I got a standard, “thanks for your feedback” macro response. But did they fix it? Nope.

Cooking light recipe missing ingredients

So much for wanting to make this recipe

Branding to millennials web banner where millennials is spelled wrong. It also shows only white men and they are using their technology in ways that looks like work. There is only one woman in the photo. She's white, and taking a selfie

Thanks to a friend for sending me this one. Beyond the typos, my friend pointed out that the graphic is also problematic; it only shows white millennials even though millennials are incredibly diverse, and the only woman depicted is using her technology to narcissistically take a selfie.

Linked in notification, saying I haven't connected with a coworker for 2 years, even though I work with him every day

Let’s be real here for a minute: We really know why this came up. Phil hasn’t had a need to get on LinkedIn in a few years and they want him back, because eyeballs mean ad revenue. So it’s more about getting him back than doing to me a favor. But to me, it feels like that ex who tells your friends to tell you that they “just hope you are well” in hopes you’ll take that as a cue to contact them.

To give LinkedIn credit, this may be helpful at a large organization where you don’t interact with almost everyone every day. So, for this one, it could be a simple change to the algorithm; only show these messages if it’s an organization of x (200?) employees or more.

Screenshot of a law firm website where the photo of the lawyers is pixelated in a way that gives them a weird halo/aura around their heads

Two ideas of how this might have went down:

Option 1:

Web designer: Can you send me a high resolution version of the photo of you in the courtroom?

Lawyers: Sure. Here you go.

Web designer: Um, that’s low resolution. Can you send me the high res file?

Lawyers: We sent you the file.

Web designer: Yes, I know, but you sent me the low res file

Lawyers: We sent you the file!!!! Just do your file.

Web designer: (sigh) Fine. I give up (or a stronger version of this)

Option 2:

Web designer: We need high quality photos for the website

Lawyers: How much is that going to cost?

Web designer: (gives number)

Lawyers: What?!? That’s too much money. Ted’s kid does a great job taking photos. We’ll just have him do it with his phone.

Web designer: Those won’t look good

Lawyers: They’ll look fine…

On another note, the reason I ended up on their website in the first place is because of some entertaining billboard replacement.

A billboard for a law firm that represents drunk driving cases. Below it is a billboard for Miller Lite

Moving on…

A screenshot of an email promotion from a gym advertising a pizza and beer party after a new workout class

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the hypocrisy of gyms serving pizza and beer. This one is especially fun because the fitness center is tied to a hospital.

An iphone screenshot of Jason's Deli's website with the words "Access Denied" when I tried to click on their nutrition information

Actually they are right, I don’t want to see the nutrition info. I’m happy being blissfully unaware in this case.

iphone screenshot of a website with an error message that says "email not exists"

There, I fixed it.

Fair use disclaimer

All screenshots are used in this post under fair use for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107.

What’s with all of the Shen Yun ads?

Photograph of women in traditional Chinese attire performing a dance
Image from lyndenj licensed under CC0 Creative Commons license.

If you live anywhere near a large city, you’ve probably seen the billboards, posters, flyers, etc. showing a woman graciously dancing, inviting you to a traditional Chinese dance performance called Shen Yun.

When I first saw these ads, I thought, “Oh how nice, I love cultural events promoting international art forms.” What set-off my skepticism, however, was the volume of their advertising. I sold billboard and radio advertising in the very early years of my career and have bought a lot of mass media as a marketing director. Using that knowledge, I did some rough math for the Houston area: the potential income from these performances in ticket sales (not factoring for any freebies given out and assuming each show is sold out) minus advertising expenses (that I knew of, which is limited since I don’t have TV and don’t travel the whole city), event rental hall prices, and costs of travel and such for the dance troupe.

I couldn’t make the math work where they would turn a profit.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who noticed their seemingly unlimited promotional budget and got curious; The Guardian has a great investigative piece about Shen Yun that is worth reading as does the Los Angeles Times. Both articles claim the goal of the performances is not to turn a profit from selling tickets, but to promote the agenda of a particular religious group, Falun Gong (Falun Dafa), and gain sympathy of their persecution by the Chinese government.

Which “side” is right? I don’t claim to have an opinion on this. But it’s important to highlight examples like their advertising and events where the goal of the advertising and/or event is different than we would originally assume.

The formula for selling viral toys, getting you to buy more

Formula:
Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity)….

Formula:

  1. Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
  2. Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity).
  3. Launch PR campaign, supply media organizations with a few of the toys so they can them away as part of their holiday feel-good campaigns.
  4. Parents promise their kids the toy for Christmas, but can’t get it.
  5. Parents buy substitute toys for Christmas.
  6. After Christmas, toy manufacturer floods the market with the toy.
  7. Parents buy the toy when it becomes available, so now the parents have bought toys twice for the season: the substitute toys for Christmas day, and the desired toy in January or February.

And yet, what do I remember about my childhood holidays?

  • My grandfather building a gingerbread house with me.
  • Seeing and playing hide and seek with my cousins.
  • Putting together my family’s Christmas pyramid and being amazed by how the candles made it work.
  • Candlelight services.

https://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/1107596867748

Sources:

Good in theory, bad in execution

I often use this phrase when something that involved a solid plan with great thought behind the plan turns-out badly.

One of the main reasons that I like this phrase is that it acknowledges that strategic thinking may not always yield good results. And, if something does go wrong, there may not be someone or something responsible for the issue.

Examples:

  • A public relations director planned the perfect timing to distribute a press release to maximize news coverage. And, two hours after releasing it, a major community leader’s house burned down, taking all attention away from the release.
  • A bride and groom can plan their wedding for the time of year with the least likelihood of weather issues, and a fluke weather pattern can still create bad weather that day.
  • A retirement planning firm bought ads during a TV show series. In the ad, they positioned their financial planner, named Mary, as someone you could trust. One of the episodes of the TV show, unfortunately, was about a famous cult leader also named Mary and how she duped so many out of their fortunes.

You can almost always learn some things from incidents that execute badly, despite the best planning, but sometimes they are simply flukes. The trick is to know the difference.

Entrepreneurs and effective marketing

We worked on increasing the effectiveness of their marketing through understanding the Broken Windows Theory for marketing and how it can increase the effectiveness of marketing for their business. 

Last night I had the pleasure to work with 25 entrepreneurs/small business owners as part of an Idea Village workshop in New Orleans. We focused on increasing the effectiveness of the marketing of their businesses through understanding the Broken Windows Theory.

Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop. I look forward to continuing dialogue with you all (y’all)!

Further reading about Broken Windows Theory for marketing:

Effective marketing using the Broken Windows Theory

Addressing the question: Why is branding so important

Your employees can make or break your marketing

The small touches in your business ensure success

Broken Window: TOO nice of a vehicle

Broken Window: Bad drivers in company vehicles

I bought a dress because of your Facebook ad, but you may not know it

A model walks down a fashion show runway in a red and black dress
“Stop Looking! Fashion Runway 2011” by Henry Jose, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

I recently bought a dress online following this flow:

  1. See dress on a Facebook ad, fall in love with it, click on ad
  2. Ad takes me to a company page, I’ve never heard of the company before, this makes me wary of purchasing
  3. Conduct a Google search for reviews of dress
  4. Finding nothing, go to Amazon and look for the dress there. Find positive reviews, including photos of actual people wearing the dress
  5. Opt to purchase on Amazon because:
    1. Amazon has standardized recourse/return methods if the purchase goes bad
    2. I can easily track the shipment
    3. I had a gift card from my birthday I wanted to use up
    4. It was the same price as the initial website

If you’re the business selling the dress, using simple Click-Through Rate (CTR) tracking methods (# of people clicked on ad, % purchased after clicking), you’ll never know that the Facebook ad “worked.”

If you’re using “Last Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the purchase came from Amazon. Amazon played a role, but it wasn’t the whole story and didn’t prompt the purchase.

If you’re using “First Interaction Model” tracking, you’ll assume the Facebook ad did all of the work, ignoring the role of the web search and Amazon.

To really understand the full journey, you have to look at a broader set of data and how various advertisements and marketing promotions play critical roles in your sales.

 

Further reading: Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

 

A marketer walks into a bridal show…

I decided to venture into the New Orleans Bride Magazine’s Bridal Show to see how truly crazy a bridal show really is. And I wasn’t disappointed.

As a bride-to-be, and someone who is fascinated by all types of marketing, I decided to venture into the New Orleans Bride Magazine’s Bridal Show to see how truly crazy a bridal show really is. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The main irony of the show for me was having to pay to go; I paid $20 to wander around and let people try to sell things to me. Where else does this happen without any other content? I can’t think of any examples, but not only did most brides pay it, they brought their whole entourage with them, and they each paid as well. They must know something I don’t know, right?

Once I got past that, I arrived at the event, checked-in, and was promptly adorned by a smiling staff member with a “Bride” sticker.  Ah, so now they can tell who the ultimate decision maker is, interesting. Unless you’re a bride, of course. With the bride sticker on, I felt like a deer wandering into a hunter’s camp. They now knew exactly who to target.

A woman's left chest and shoulder with a hot pink round sticker that says, "Bride" attached to her purple shirt.
This sticker apparently says, “Hi, sell me everything.”

“Bride” sticker target correctly fixed to my shoulder, I got my “goodie” bag and free drink ticket, and walked into the show.  This is the first of two price justification or sunk cost cognitive points, as you as a bride can always try to justify going to these by saying, “Oh, I’ll get a bunch of goodies, which makes up for paying $20 entry fee,” right? Well, you could, but as with most “goodie” bags, it was filled with literature vs. things you’d want, so the justification falls flat quickly. I did pick-up a few fun things on the way, but they most certainly didn’t add-up to $20.

A photo of a bright pink bridal show bag, two cookies, bride and groom koozies, a flipbook, and a huge pile of literature for various magazines, wedding venues, etc.
Bridal show “goodie” bad. Note that the food, koozies, and flipbook weren’t in the bag, I picked-those up at stops at the show. So, the bag was mostly literature.

 

And off I go, into a sea of vendors physically pulling me into their booths, clipboards being shoved into my hands to fill-out for prizes, and calls to try free samples of food and cake.  This is the second of two price justification or sunk cost cognitive points, as you as a bride can always try to justify going to these by saying, “I’ll get dinner out of this.” Which is true, you could get dinner, but the irony of eating at these events is that a good amount of brides are trying to lose weight and the samples are definitely not healthy or going to help with that.  Also, taking their food triggers a feeling of reciprocity; if you are eating their food, there’s a good chance you’ll feel obligated to listen to them, fill out their form, etc.

Photo of buffet table of free food at a bridal show
Plenty of (unhealthy) food at the event, which is ironic if you think about brides wanting to lose weight.

I ate dinner ahead of time, so I avoided the calorie-bomb food, but took full advantage of the “prize” sign-ups as I was curious how many of these would follow-up with me after the show and, hey, if I won a prize, that’d be cool too. Unfortunately for the show organizers, I kept track of what prizes I signed-up for and what vendors I gave my name to, which lead me to shock #1: they’d clearly given (cough, sold) my contact information to all of the vendors there, as many vendors that I hadn’t given my information to contacted me.

Shock #2 was the predatory nature of some of the vendors. Two of the vendors that contacted me appeared to be high pressure cookware sales companies. They offer you a big prize (such as a free vacation) and knife for coming to a “cooking demonstration.” Now I love to see my experiments through to the end, but they required me to bring my fiancé along, and that’s just too much suffering on his part for me. So vague company names and details, too high priced of giveaways, and reading horror stories online from other brides will have to suffice as evidence that the companies are high pressure sales situations, similar to timeshares.

Was it an awful time? The above might seem that way, but I had fun; it was interesting to see some of the interesting products out there, such as a cake make entirely of cheese from St. James Cheese Company and a Flipbook from Funtastic Fotos. And, it’s fascinating to break down the bridal show business model, as a marketer and a bride, and see the various elements of it.

A stack of continually smaller cheese rounds and squares to make cheese look like a "cake"
St. James Cheese Company’s creative “Cheese cakes” with cheese samples.

 

Tips for brides going to a bridal show:

  • Enjoy it for what it is.
  • You don’t have to wear the bride sticker.
  • Stick to local, small business vendors.
  • Ask how you can remove your contact information from the list provided to vendors.
  • Think about what you want to accomplish before you go, do you want to find more options for your venue? Do you want to find fun gifts for your groomsmen? Then only go visit those vendors.
  • Eat a meal before you go. Not only will your waistline thank you, but you won’t be drawn into conversations with vendors you don’t want to because you’re grabbing their food.
  • Smile and say “no thank you” you if you aren’t interested.
  • Only claim prizes if it doesn’t mean you have to do something else. Giving them your address of whatever they need for tax purposes is one thing, having to attend another event to “claim” your prize is a red flag that it’s a high pressure sales situation.