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.

Don’t forget packaging

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship.

An in-store display of honey in glass jars next to cheese
Yes, glass jars cost more, but in this case, they also communicate “high quality” so they can charge a higher price. Note the placement of this display is near produce to communicate freshness and next to high-quality cheese, to emphasize the luxury of the product.
Honey in small glass jars that's been labeled for specific purposes, such as
Honey for various purposes? I doubt there’s much of a difference. And $4.49 per small glass jar communicates these as a luxury good (and potential gift item)
A round container of honeycomb with the honey still in it.
Honeycomb included in honey takes a gift to a whole new level of interesting and luxury, with a hefty price tag. Question: How many people know what to do with raw honeycomb?

The past few years, I’ve become very familiar with bees, and everyone’s favorite product from bees, honey.

As my fiancé, the beekeeper, would tell you, you can’t judge the quality of honey by the color or what it says on the package, you judge it by “the bubble test,” essentially turning a jar of honey upside down and watching how fast the air bubble moves to the now-top of the jar. The slower the bubble, the better the honey.

And honey supposedly purported to be from only a single plant (i.e. clover honey or lavender honey) isn’t always accurate either, as bees go where they please and like variety.

Now that you know all of this, you can see my amusement when I walk into a food store and see the varieties of honey available and the pricing related to them. The vast majority of the price differential is the packaging.

  • Honey in glass and/or special shaped bottles looks more expensive (and thus can command a higher price)
  • Including honeycomb greatly increases the price
  • Marketing honey as single source means smaller amounts for more money
  • Honey from far away feels exotic and special, resulting in an upcharge
  • Labeling honey for special purposes (such as “honey for cooking” and “honey for tea”) encourages people to buy more for these various purposes
  • Honey that seems special encourages people to give them as gifts

And yet, what people are mostly buying it for is the packaging, the idea of a luxury product, or a personal relationship. I recently purchased from thredUP and received my “used” clothes very prettily wrapped in paper, trying to emphasize their quality (vs. buying from Goodwill). Similarly, when Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) sends your order, it always includes a personal note and sometimes even a gift.

I’ve noticed similarly how many products I avoid, not because the product isn’t good, but because the packaging is terrible, such as a greek yogurt that I no longer buy because the lid is cheap and breaks too easily.

An opened shipping box of Molly & Drew bread mixes with a handwritten note that says
Molly & You (formerly Molly & Drew) orders come in a plain box, but includes a personal note from the person who packaged this. And, in this case, a surprise of a free pancake mix. Hopefully they can continue this personal touch as they continue to grow.

My challenge for you: Take a look at your packaging, whether it’s actual product packaging and shipping or packaging of your service.

  • Think about how your messaging is or isn’t extended through your packaging.
  • Do your customers like your packaging.
  • Are you losing/gaining customers due to your packaging?
  • What can you do to improve the packaging experience for your customers?

 

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

How social media changed corporate branding and marketing

Different colors of chalk ends with the logos of the main social media sites (facebook, twitter, etc.) on the ends
“The Art of Social Media” by mkhmarketing, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

“If you create good branded content, they will come,” sums up the philosophy that was championed during my masters degree courses on social media marketing. At the time, that was the prominent thought, and still continues to be in most organizations.

The reality, however, is much different. Brands have spent billions to create content and haven’t garnered the massive loyal following they thought it would.

But Douglas Holt will tell you that crowdcultures are better at producing content, and for a lot less money and time, that resonates on social media. He demonstrates by highlighting brands who have spent billions to create amazing content on sites such as YouTube, Instagram, etc. are getting trounced in the rankings, by individuals with limited production ability.

Instead, he’ll tell you not to focus on the crowdculture. In the March 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review (Branding in the age of social media), Crowdcultures, according to Holt, are digital crows that serve “as very effective and prolific innovators of culture.”

As examples, he highlights:

  • Pre-industrial food culture: Those individuals who are concerned about, and challenging, our industrial methods of producing food.
  • Lad culture: A tongue-in-cheek form of sexism stemmed from frustrations of over-sensitivity by feminists
  • Body-positive culture: Those frustrated with the unrealistic ideals in media, especially of women

Conventional marketing would tell you to find your target market along demographic and benefit lines and promote to them, or to highlight your organization’s core values that best along with the largest segment of the market. Following the crowdculture philosophy, instead you’d identify a specific crowdculture that is a good fit for your organization and focus on them.

So back to the crowdculture examples to see how this alignment works:

  • Pre-industrial food revival: Chipotle’s branding around local and non-industrial food sourcing
  • Lad culture: Axe body spray’s over-the-top ads of bikini-clad “ideal” women chasing after men
  • Body-positive culture: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign focused on emphasizing that women are beautiful in their natural form (and, for fun, Dove has the same parent company as Axe)

There’s a lot more to identifying, aligning and maintaining this type of marketing strategy and Holt goes into some details in the article along with having a book on the subject, How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding.

Is this the correct strategy moving forward? That’s yet to be seen. What is clear is, the “If you create good branded content, they will come,” strategy isn’t working.

Stop putting your building in ads! Features vs. benefits in marketing

A while ago, I watched a local business give a presentation to the local chamber of commerce about their law firm. And they talked about…their building.  Apparently they had just finished a remodel of their offices and wanted to show them off. Slide after slide after slide was photos of the inside and outside of their building. It was beautiful, but a complete waste of the audience’s time and a complete missed marketing opportunity for the business.

Features vs. benefits

Because businesses are empowered by computer programs that allow them to design their own fliers, brochures, and webpages (although I recommend against this), it’s important to remember features vs. benefits.

Features describe something. Usually they describe something about your business or your product.

Benefits are how those features benefit the customer.  Basically, they describe why the customer cares.

An easy way to tell the difference between your company or product’s features vs. benefits can be done with a simple sentence:

  1. Start by naming something about your business or product.
  2. Now, pretend that you are talking to your potential customer and finish the sentence by saying “so you can…” and adding an ending.

Examples (remember you are talking directly to your customer):

  • Our coffee is only made with the freshest beans (feature), so you can be sure that every cup of coffee will be a great sensory experience (benefit).
  • The homes we build are made to withstand hurricane winds (feature) so you can be free of worry because your family will be protected when the next storm comes (benefit).
  • Our lawn tractors last twice as long as any of our competitor’s lawn tractors (feature) so you can save money in the long-term by purchasing one of our lawn tractors even though it is more expensive (benefit).
  • Every plumber that works for us is certified and has a minimum of 10 years of experience (feature) so you can be sure that the problem will be fixed the first time and you won’t have to worry about it again or take another day off work to fix it (benefits).
A photo of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous waterfall house, Fallingwater
“Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright)” by brian donovan, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Features vs. Benefits in Marketing

Your final marketing message doesn’t have to be in that format. It can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, which is where the beauty of good advertising comes in. But, the point that is absolutely critical is that your marketing should focus on them (benefits) and not focus on you (features).

With the constantly increasing number of advertising messages that your potential customers are exposed to every day, in order to stand out, you must speak directly to your customers in a way that resonates with them. You must explain or show them that your product or service benefits them in some way that will motivate them to act.

It’s Not About Your Building!

Going back to our law firm example, this is the biggest features vs. benefits mistake I see a lot of businesses make is to focus on their building (although poor facilities can affect your marketing effectiveness).

If I were advising the law firm, considering that their audience was primarily small business owners at that meeting, I would have recommended that they focused their talk on how their services benefit small business owners by saving them money, protecting their business, etc.  By doing so, they would be focusing on how they can benefit the people in the room and they would have had a much better chance of walking out with some new leads.

Take a Fresh Look

So I challenge you to take a fresh look at your marketing materials and review tapes of your past presentations, and ask yourself if you are talking about features or benefits.  Are you talking about yourself or are you talking about them? Are you focused on what comes after “so you can…” in your marketing? If not, it’s time to start rewriting.

Sometimes it makes sense to make fun of your brand

Wearing a t-shirt that reads "Cornflake U"
Cornflake U t-shirt

A few years ago, when I was working as the Director of Public Information and Marketing at Kellogg Community College, a fellow employee who had an interest in marketing came to me with a question about a particular t-shirt being sold in the bookstore. The t-shirt read “Cornflake University” and was a spoof on the Kellogg part of our name. He was concerned that it violated our branding standards and made fun of the school. He wanted my opinion.

 

I’m a huge champion of branding and consistency (see Addressing the question: Why branding is important), but there’s a part of “the brand” that he wasn’t considering; the brand “personality.” Our brand had a lot of personality characteristics, including personable, approachable, and fun. Considering that, we both agreed that the shirts really didn’t violate our brand, they enhanced it.

 

To this day, one of the most popular items in the bookstore is the “Cornflake U” shirts. I wear mine proudly.

Addressing the Question: Measuring Advertising ROI

One of the hardest questions, I think, for marketers and advertisers to answer is the dreaded question “How can I measure my advertising?” because, unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. That isn’t to say that there is no way to do it, it just is a lot more complex than most would think. So, this post is a listing of my three favorite ideas on how to explain the complexity of advertising return on investment  (ROI) to someone when they ask the question.

The Team Concept

Especially helpful if the person plays or watches sports, for this explanation, you ask the person to think of a team sport, such as hockey. Then, ask the person to identify only one person from the team who responsible for the most recent win of that team. Depending on what type of sports fan they are, they might mention the coach or the star of the team, but the reality is, it takes the whole team to win or lose a game. Each person plays a part in the end goal. Then you can explain how advertising works similarly, because some combination of advertising, promotions, and other marketing caused the purchase through reach, branding, frequency, etc.

Google does a good job of explaining this in the video below. You only need to watch the first minute of the video though. After that, they try to provide you with a solution that also isn’t reasonable because it assumes all communications come from the company (friends and family are a huge part of purchase decisions!) and assumes only an online strategy. Nonetheless, they highlight the team approach very well.

Go Ahead and Do a Survey

Especially if you are being asked by someone who likes numbers, actually doing a “How did you hear about us?” survey will help your case. Those of us in advertising and marketing know that people have no idea where they see or hear things or, at a grander scale, even what causes them to purchase something. But others don’t. For these people, a simple, “How did you hear about us?” will help you prove the problems with measuring advertising ROI because people will report seeing or hearing from you in a lot of places you weren’t.

I used this approach years ago using Facebook advertising. I created Facebook ads that linked to a “please contact me” style form. The only way to get to the link and the form was through the Facebook advertising. But, just to prove my point, on the bottom of the form was the “How did you hear about us?” question with a listing of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc). Keeping in mind that they could not get to the survey through any other means than Facebook and the fact that they had just clicked on the link. Now, here’s the results: 50% of respondents clicked on some other social media site than Facebook. I know, I was shocked too, but that’s completely the truth.

Tell Me About Your Last Major Purchase?

Probably my favorite way of showing the difficulty of measuring advertising ROI, however, is to ask the person about themselves. I generally pick a car, but you can pick any major purchase, and then just ask them what specific ad caused them to make the purchase.

I used this technique with a friend of mine. In his case, he had just bought a new car so I asked him what specific advertisement had caused him to buy that particular car. At first, he pointed to the 0% financing deal that had just came out. But, after asking him if that really was the only thing that caused his decision, he then talked at length about how his family always buys Fords, how he had read a lot of good reviews on it, how he’d seen a lot of ads about what his particular Ford could do, and even how he had seen multiple ads for the 0% financing. After all of that, he went silent. Then he just said “I get what you mean now.” “Perfect,” I said and that was the end of the discussion.

What’s your favorite way of explaining the difficulty of measuring advertising and marketing ROI?