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Friendly fire and the unexamined campaign; when content marketing misses the mark
The rise of digital media has equipped the modern marketer with an arsenal of new ways to reach their customers in previously unchartered territories, but the fickle and fast nature of content marketing is not without its pitfalls.
Campaigns no longer require the meticulous planning of a space shuttle launch, rather the quick-fire antics of a Mexican standoff; resulting in brands leapfrogging protocol in their attempts to land on the bandwagon. Naturally, at times they miss the mark, resulting in cringe worthiness, reputation damage and all-round hilarity.
Luckily, there are lessons to be learned at every ill-fated turn:
Know your audience
Overzealous Brian from accounts wants everyone to know we could be saving dolphins/trees/ leprechauns by swearing off treacle or wheat germ. Good on Brian! But such overt displays of righteousness are not necessarily what your customer ordered. So demonstrated by Audi’s #Paymydues social campaign, which encouraged their fanbase of ardent petrol heads to share their triumphs over adversity.
The reactions spoke for themselves; with a barrage of comments such as ‘WE WANT CARS’ and ‘I’m switching to Mercedes’ raining hellfire on Audi’s misguided display of nobility. The takeaway was clear, know your audience and always give them what they want.
Get a second opinion
Exploiting national disasters for commercial gain is never a good idea, yet this hasn’t stopped foolhardy marketing execs wading in with guns blazing. Take a certain mattress company’s recent foray into YouTube marketing, using the anniversary of the 9/11 disaster as the theme for a sale in the most distasteful way imaginable.
It’s difficult to imagine a gaggle of marketing professionals assenting to ideas like this, all too often because they don’t. The informal guise of digital media tempts a gung-ho approach to marketing that absconds from that much needed second-opinion. Get one. Get several in fact, because once it’s out there there’s no turning back.
Don’t arm the kids
Before launching that cool social campaign, ask yourself the same question parents ask themselves when naming their children - will the other kids make fun of this? If the answer is yes, then it might be worth reconsidering. The internet is a playground, and the kids are merciless.
No better demonstrated than by the NERC’s infamous ‘name the boat’ competition, which resulted in a landslide victory for ‘RSS Boaty McBoatface’. A decision eventually vetoed by NERC’s chief executive, who one can only imagine was kicking himself for entrusting the name of the £200m polar research vessel over to the sensibilities of the British public.
Hedge your bets
If a major social/political event is unfolding around you, it might be tempting to bring it into your content marketing, after all it shows you are up with the times, plugged in and on the ball. Or in the case of Ryanair’s ‘Celebrate staying in the EU’ Brexit sale email, that you took a gamble and it didn’t pay off. And now you look like a wally.
Apart from the fact Ryanair broke the golden rule of marketing (steer clear of politics, religion, in fact anything that doesn’t portray your brand as settled squarely on top of the fence) they also based their campaign on a gamble. Way to tempt fate. The lesson here – stick to your core proposition and always hedge your bets.
Ultimately, content marketing enables brands to tap into the trends of the hour in a way that traditional media never could. It’s faster, cheaper and far less restrictive. But it’s important not to get trigger happy with it. Plan, evaluate and stay true to your values, striving for a consistent brand experience as you would offline. Always bear in mind the that the repercussions of an ill-conceived campaign can be far reaching, and unlike the 30 second ad-slot of the pre-internet age, once its online, it will forever reside there in the vaults of internet infamy.
Suzy Kostadinov is a senior copy writer at Hugo & Cat.
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