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.

Are we effectively communicating with future-oriented people?

This post starts with the assumption that the work on the three orientations, past, present and future, is accurate. That may or may not be the case, but it’s an assumption for this post.


Wall engraved quote saying, "Our future is greater than our past" by Ben Okri
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: SAN_DRINO


My friend, we will call her Melissa, is losing weight (very successfully I might add!). But she’s not doing it to look better; she’s losing weight because she foresees, based on family history and other factors, that this will benefit her long-term. My friend Melissa is future-oriented. I am the same way and her comments have made me, a burger loving, pizza craving person, go to Whole Foods for a salad for lunch, not because I feel guilty or want to look better, but because I want to still be healthy at age 60.

If you look at most marketing messages they are focused on the short-term. “Look better naked” reads a billboard for Gold’s Gym, “fast-acting” reads most medicine labels, and “change beginning tomorrow” is the theme of most political ads.  In the same way, many ads appeal to the past-oriented people, mostly through nostalgia. But what about the major subset the population that is future-oriented? Are we communicating effectively to them? We do for some products or services that lends themselves naturally to it, such as financial planning, but often, we forego discussing the long-term benefits in favor of short-term ones.

Perhaps we should start by including our target market’s orientation in our marketing process. For example, if we know that a large portion of our target market is future-oriented, we should talk about more long-term vs. short-term benefits. And, if we have a split target market when it comes to time orientation, craft messages for both.  In this method of thinking, Gold’s Gym would keep their “Look better naked” message but also have messages for those that are future-benefit oriented, such as “Still be able to hike a mountain at age 60.”

“The Sexy Lie” by Caroline Heldman is a must-watch

If you haven’t seen the “The Sexy Lie” TEDx Talk by Caroline Heldman below, it’s well worth the watch.

I’ve written a little bit about women in advertising before (i.e. Lifetime Fitness model too thin. This billboard needs to come down) but this video has a lot of key points that I think aren’t emphasized including body correction and the connection between objectification and GPA (grade point average).

A business sign that makes me laugh

A changeable sign  by Stutts-Cox builders in Tomball Texas reads, "Quiet Please Meditating..The sign"
This sign made me laugh each time I drove by when they put up this message.

For the past week the Stutts-Cox Contractors sign I’ve driven by on my way to work has made me laugh with the message “Quiet please meditating..the sign.” Typically they use their sign on the side of a 55 mph road to congratulate a community member that has done something of note, such as congratulate the local homecoming queen and king.

Do I think it’s the best advertising for them? Honestly, no. I’ve been driving by this sign for a year and a half and, prior to taking this photo, I’d never read the name of the business responsible for the sign.  As a former outdoor salesperson, I can tell you it’s too many words/too small of words to be seen at that speed and there’s too much visual clutter around it.

But I do think, for those who do know who the sign is by, it creates some community goodwill for the company. By putting up a humorous saying every once in a while, I also think this sign gives the company a bit of a personality, which is becoming more essential in branding these days.

Lifetime Fitness model too thin. This billboard needs to come down.

A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says "I can do it all in my lifetime"
A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says “I can do it all in my lifetime”

Dear Lifetime Fitness,

Normally I don’t use this blog to openly criticize advertisements and the companies that put their brand on them, but I find the above billboard for your fitness centers in Houston, TX absolutely appalling.

This woman is not fit, she’s anorexic-looking. Particularly, her arms are the size of small twigs. They can’t be real; they must be graphically modified. At least, I hope so.

We’ve done a lot of work as an industry to get away from using too-thin models and, instead, using models that are fit AND healthy (for examples, see Shape Magazine or Oxygen Magazine). Advertisements like this that show someone who is simply too thin to be healthy are a step in the wrong direction and outright harmful to the impressionable.

Please take it down immediately, replace it with a model that is a true portrayal of health and fitness, and figure out a way to do so in all future ads.

Nicole Finkbeiner

P.S. If you are wondering why I chose this venue to bring this matter to your attention, it wasn’t my first choice. I was planning to send you an email and/or talk to you via your Facebook page. But, after reading comments on your Facebook page about unhappy consumers not being treated well by your customer service staff and seeing how Facebook complaints are handled on your page (most responses from your company are of the “We are sorry, but you, Mr, Customer, are wrong” nature), I decided to utilize my blog instead.

Lessons from sales series: Three-legged stool, leg #2, you have to love your product or service

When I was working at Adams Outdoor Advertising, they brought in Dr. George Pransky of Pransky and Associates to talk about what would make us successful.  One of the things he talked about was a three-legged stool. The three legs were: You have to love people, love your product, and be resilient.

#2 on the three-legged sales stool is today’s topic: love your product

It’s one of the oldest sales adages out there, you can’t sell what you don’t love. And, it’s so true. It’s really hard to convince someone else that you have the greatest thing since sliced bread if you aren’t convinced of that yourself.

Does that mean you have to believe your product or service is right all of the time?  No.  When I was selling billboard advertising, I knew my product wasn’t right for everyone. But, I targeted the customers I knew it was right for and shared my love with them vs. those it couldn’t help.  And, by the way, I’m still madly in love with outdoor….good outdoor that is.

A young woman at a table with a stack of CD's she is selling
It’s easy to sell CD’s for a band that you love. And, I bet that’s why this young woman has a smile on her face while doing it! From flickr mikecogh

This “love your product” advice is also why I work in higher education and particularly why I work at a community college. I believe to my core that education is the best way for our children to succeed. And, I believe community colleges offer the right combination of opportunities (small class sizes, affordable tuition, etc.) for a large majority of our population.  This belief makes my job of “selling” the college I work for, community colleges, and higher education in general, very enjoyable and easy (although a lot of work!). If you ask me to get up in front of a group and discuss my college, the hard part won’t be trying to get me to do it, the hard part will be getting me to STOP talking.

So, if you are going to be in sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, etc., find a product or service you love to “sell.” You will be amazed at how much more successful you will be at your job.