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Ten Warning Signs Your Marketing Campaign Might Fail

As most of my regular readers (if indeed I have any) well know, I’m not in marketing – though I’ve certainly considered trying to find my way into the field. I’ve got a great deal of respect for anyone who’s managed not only to start up a career, but to thrive: it’s not an easy job, after all. There’s a lot that can go wrong with an advertising campaign, and it’s not exactly difficult to run headlong into one of the many stumbling blocks along the path of making an ad successful. There’s always a chance your marketing efforts might be fort naught, and an ad campaign might fizzle out (or worse, fail spectacularly).

Thankfully, campaigns rarely fail without reason: and rarely are they completely impossible to turn around, as long as you recognize what mistakes you’re making. The ability to recognize the warning signs that you’re making a bad call – and steer yourself away from that call – is an invaluable skill, and could well be the difference between whether you sink or swim in the marketing world.

You’re Suffering from a Brand Mismatch

No two brands are created equal – what works for one organization might not work for another. With that in mind, not every advertising approach is going to be a suitable means of getting the word out about your business. Unless you’re looking to shake up how everybody perceives your brand; you need to consider what everyone thinks of your organization. Trust your instincts here, and refer to the information you’ve gathered on your target demographic. What do they expect of your brand, and would challenging their expectations cause damage?

You’re Imitating Someone Else

As the old cliche goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. True though that may be, it’s going to get you nowhere here. Attempts to piggyback on someone else’s good idea rarely end well. At best, you manage to obtain some small margin of success, but come nowhere near the heights the original reached. At worst, your mimicry fails in a spectacular fashion, and ends up causing damage to your brand.

We’ve already established that no marketing approach is a cure-all, and that not every approach works with every brand. With that in mind, imitating another brand’s advertising strategy could be downright catastrophic, particularly if they cater to a different demographic. Do your own thing – don’t try to copy someone else’s concept. Your strategy needs to be catered specifically to your brand.

You Have a Social Presence…But You’re Doing Nothing With It

So you’ve decided to set up a Facebook page for your organization? Good. That’s great. Getting yourself established on a social network could be a great step for your business – it might well end up being the best choice you’ve ever made. But…what’s this? You’re not actually posting any content, informing people of product updates,or interacting with your consumers in any meaningful fashion?

Why did you go to all the effort of trying to go social in the first place, then?

There’s No Personalization

If you’re ever going to address a user one on one, at least do enough research to cobble together a general understanding of who they are, what they want and (if you’re looking to do business with them) what they do – that’s just basic due diligence. I’ve already explained in a previous piece that the ‘shotgun’ approach to advertising almost never works. That goes double here: if you just fire off cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill messages, emails, or phone calls, they will be ignored.

And if you’re behaving impersonally to a user who’s requested aid via your Facebook page or twitter feed…stop doing that. You’re only going to make them angry. You don’t have to be their best friend. You just have to treat them with respect, and show them that you actually care about their problems.

Consumers Can’t Hear your Call to Action

Don’t hide your call to action unless you’re absolutely confident people are going to be inspired to search for it. I’m talking about 99.9% certainty here. Most of the time, people aren’t going to bother hunting for a means of accessing your brand or reaching your landing page: they’re just going to move on. That’s one of the unfortunate side effects of the information age: we’re so saturated with information that most of us can’t be bothered to spend more than a few seconds on each tidbit fed to us.

In short, if you’re thinking of a super-creative approach which downplays the fact that you’re selling a product, you’d best be absolutely certain that people are going to want to actively seek your product out…else you’re wasting both your time and theirs.

Your Ads Overshadow Your Product

Speaking of creativity….did you know there’s such as thing as an advertisement that’s too good? I’m talking about an ad that’s so memorable, so creative, so witty and funny that it completely overpowers the product being sold. Creativity is awesome, and more power to you if you can create an ad that everybody loves and talks about for years to come. Never forget, however, that your ultimate goal is to sell a product. No matter what, your brand needs to be the central focus. The moment you shift things away from your products, you’re probably making a mistake.

Your ads simply aren’t that good

This one’s more or less self-explanatory. For whatever reason, people don’t like your advertisements. If they’re banner ads, maybe they’re gaudy, or too resource-intensive, or too invasive. If you’re running a TV spot, it might be too obnoxious or offensive. The lesson here is that you need to be actively doing market research while your campaign is running – and if people complain, you need to listen. That’s the first step to figuring out what you’re doing wrong, and fixing the problem. If that should involve writing some very carefully-worded apologies and scrapping your campaign, then so be it – better than than breaking your brand.

You’re Not Taking Mobile Into Account

I’ve talked about mobile already, and how mobile device usage is going to overtake PC usage in the near future. As such, I’ll keep this brief. If you’re designing ads for the Internet, you need to take the small screen into account. Don’t just throw out a few advertisements designed for larger monitors. Put together spots built to be viewed from tablets and smartphones.

You’re Putting More Time into the Campaign than the Brand

Running a proper marketing campaign – particularly in this day and age – is a huge time commitment, especially if you’re trying to get your organization running on a social network. Never forget, however, that your first priority lies with maintaining and nurturing your brand. Even if you run the best, most successful, most memorable campaign in history; it’ll all be for naught if you neglect your brand and let things go south. You need to make sure that you’re still paying attention to what you’re trying to sell: after all, a farmer who spends all his time hawking his wares and neglects his farm isn’t going to get all that far in life.

You’ve been running things into the ground

So you’ve managed to hit a sweet spot with consumers. You’ve got a line of ads that everybody loves, everybody remembers, and everyone’s talking about. You’ve found success! Congratulations! Your ads run successfully for a year, sales go up, positive opinion of your organization surges, and everybody’s happy. Then you run the same line of ads again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

Soon, pretty much everybody’s sick of seeing the ads, and where they once caused positive opinion to surge…now they start having the opposite effect.

Basically, every marketing campaign has a certain shelf life, after which it becomes tired and stale. As the marketer, it lies with you to determine what that shelf life is – and when it’s time to retire an idea and start exploring new alternatives.

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Nicholas Greene
Written by Nicholas Greene

I'm no social media expert - I'll tell you that right now. I'm not some guru who can guarantee you more likes and followers, nor do I hold any certifications that mark me as a social genius. All I've got is an English degree, a way with words, and a deep fascination with marketing and social media. Follow me @OmniscientSpork

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