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.

NFL tries to appease female fans after purse ban: “Fanicures,” pop-up stores and things that go wrong

A photo of a hand with manicured nails. The nails are blue, red and white in varying simple designs to match the colors of the Houston Texans
Thanks to CoverGirl for my “fanicure” at the Houston Texans game.

Before heading to the Houston Texans game today, I read CultureMap’s article titled,  NFL tries to court back female fans: Does a pop-up lounge with “fanicures” make up for purse ban?. As a marketer, things like this fascinate me, so one of my friends and I ventured into the pop-up store.

The merchandise was exactly what they said, very female-oriented and very trendy. the free “fanicures” were great (thanks CoverGirl!) and the photo booth was fun. Overall, do I think they won back some female fans with it? Maybe. I, for one, at least appreciated the gesture.  And I learned a lot about products now available that I didn’t know about before.

But not everything went well for this special promotion event. There were three broken windows that they might want to address before their next event:

  • There was an hour wait for a “fanicure,” But, they took my cell number and told me they’d text me when it was my turn. Two hours of holding my cell at the game and still no text. So, I went back. Their text feature wasn’t working, but the woman organizing the fanicures told me she’d fit me in next and she held true to that.
  • The CultureMap article said they wouldn’t be selling purses. Ironically, they were.  Just don’t try to bring the purse you buy there into the stadium. They don’t meet the NFL Bag Policy guidelines.
  • The photo booth was a lot of fun and we had a good time partaking in that.  But, when we got our printout, we had no where to put it to keep it safe. The printed photo strip was longer than our allowable bag size, so it wouldn’t fit anywhere.

Overall, I think this was a great event in the long process of winning-back female fans and the broken windows were pretty minor considering. Best of luck to the NFL and GO TEXANS!

Ten marketing and pr lessons from FailBlog (and why it’s my favorite blog)

I know this is going to sound strange. Believe me, I do, but my favorite blog for marketing and public relations is: FailBlog. Of all the great marketing and pr blogs to choose from, it seems like an odd pick at first blush, but hang with me as I explain and it might just turn into your favorite as well.

I’m a huge fan of Mike Levine’s book, Broken Windows, Broken Business and, in general, taking a look at signals that a business is sending to a customer that is killing the business’ marketing effectiveness. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of a presentation on marketing effectiveness lately that talks about this subject at length. During those talks, I recommend that the members of the audience become regular subscribers of FailBlog so that they can train their mind to look for ways that their businesses are sending the wrong signals to customers. Basically the concept is, you learn from your mistakes, but you can also learn from the mistakes of others. Besides, most of them are just plain funny and will brighten your day.

So, to prove my point, here are the ten marketing and public relations lessons from FailBlog this week:

1. Think dirty

Whether you want them to or not, if there is a way to take your marketing message in a dirty or perverted way, someone will. So, before anything is finalized, ask yourself (or someone you know who has this kind of mind) if there is any way that your message could be considered dirty. If so, start over.

epic fail photos - Truck Design FAIL

epic fail photos - Things That Are Doing It: It's a Choking Hazard

2. Source carefully

Double check your sources, including photos and videos, carefully to make sure you are showing the correct thing. You don’t want to post the wrong Statue of Liberty on a stamp or something similar because it’s embarrassing and hurts your credibility.

epic fail photos - Fox News FAIL

3. Think big picture

Think about all aspects of your business and how they are put together. Incorrect combinations of products or services may be disastrous. So, take a step back, and look at the overall picture.

epic fail photos - Product Placement FAIL

4. Check displays, boards, online forums often

Pranksters are everywhere and some people may not understand that you weren’t the one that put the hangers next to the pregnancy tests, so it’s important that you check any areas that customers have access to often for signs of tampering or anything that may offend your other customers (and land you on FailBlog).

epic fail photos - Snack FAIL

5. Humanize your processes

I know this is contrary to popular thought right now, but full automation is not always the answer. Computers may not catch errors that humans can, so it might be worthwhile to add a human set of eyes back into your business’ processes.

epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Accountability FAIL

epic fail photos - Drug Policy Answer Fail

6. Think functionality

It never fails that 2-3 times per week on FailBlog, there’s going to be some rendition of the vehicle or door or something else with moving parts that sends a different message than intended. So, double check placement and how things will look when the door to your shiny new van is opened before you finish your design.

epic fail photos - Church Van FAIL

7. Make checklists

If you are getting ready to launch a major promotion, it might be a good idea to keep detailed notes and checklists on what you did and what you need to do, so you don’t slip up and, say, let ads run congratulating a team that didn’t win.

epic fail photos - NBA Champions FAIL

8. Check on your employees

I’m in no way an advocate for micro-managing, but I do think it’s a good idea to get up, walk around a bit, and see what your employees are up to. Imagine how it would look to your business if people were waiting in line for help and they could see an employee in another room reading a book. Or, you may see and employee committing (hopefully unintentionally) something that is illegal. Knowing now and stopping it will save you from a lawsuit and some bad pr later.

epic fail photos - CLASSIC: Nap Location FAIL

9. Check your claims

So often, consumers are bombarded with claims like “world’s first” or “dependable” or “unbreakable.” It’s wonderful if they are true, but you need to make sure your claims are true EVERY TIME or you will immediately have a broken windows, marketing, and public relations issue.

epic fail photos - Unbreakable FAIL

10. Look at photos carefully

From now on, every time you take photos that you plan to publish in some way, take a few extra seconds and really look over them. What is everyone doing in them? Is there anything in the background of photos that could be embarrassing? The one photo you forget to check just might be the one that has an issue in it.

epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Yearbook Picture Fail

So the next time your boss catches you laughing hysterically in your office while looking at FailBlog, you can now give definitive reasons why it’s a great tool to help you sharpen your marketing and public relations skills, and, ultimately, protect your business’ reputation.

Post originally published on my MSU Journalism blog, Fit To Type.