Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

What do you think is the biggest marketing blunder of all time? Each year, lists are published to remind us of the most ridiculous, off target, offensive or downright puzzling campaigns. Clearly this isn’t a list that most businesses or organizations want to appear on.

To understand where communication goes wrong, taking a good look at why campaigns fail is very enlightening.

Always, always proof your projects. This must be said. Typos and grammatical errors will take away from your messaging, it may also make you the butt of many, many jokes. Early in my career I noted that I was a pubic relations professional when marketing myself. Yes, I still cringe when I think back on it.

When you’re creating and publishing your content, build a process that ensures you have plenty of eyes on your content before you hit ‘publish.’

Don’t fall out of touch. Many campaigns bomb because they were essentially tone deaf. When you’re making jokes, look at them from all angles and perspectives. Don’t make tasteless, insensitive jokes. If you don’t know what qualifies as tasteless or insensitive, don’t make any jokes. Be sure that you understand the context of any pop culture or historical references. Comedy is subjective, and while you may not intend to offend, you may do so.

Pay close attention to current events. If you are creating content that is relevant to current events, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Insincerity screams out from campaigns that aren’t well thought out, or try to take advantage of others’ suffering. Additionally, many campaigns are planned out months in advance so be sure to consider what is happening before launching to ensure that your campaign won’t be poorly timed.

Plan for a great customer experience. Think about both the short- and long-term impacts of your marketing, both positive and negative. If you aren’t able to deliver on your marketing promises you’re wasting time and energy while creating a negative impression. If you don’t have the product, time or resources to provide what you say you will, a black eye is the most likely result for your enterprise.

Don’t fall for the idea that you should “change it up” unless you really should “change it up” based solid knowledge. Think New Coke. If you take away something people like you are simply showing that you don’t know your customers.

You many not use celebrity endorsements, but you still might associate with public figures, community groups, or well-known industry influencers. Make sure you don’t seek to align with others who may hurt your brand, or simply create confusion.

When it comes to logos and the graphic design of your marketing, everything from the colors you use to the font of the text can affect how your customers perceive your business. Marketing campaigns have been known to live or die based on something as trivial as a color choice.

Poking fun may be easy, but there is no cookie cutter way to be successful. There are, however, components of a successful marketing plan that should never be overlooked.

A successful marketing campaign is comprised of:
• Clear objectives and goals
• A defined target audience
• Attention-grabbing content
• Monitoring of results for optimization

The moral is to always put a lot of thought into your marketing. Be intentional about your message, your offer, and the words, images and people you use to communicate.
Every business wants to make a big impact, but make sure you are getting attention for the right reasons. Not because your marketing efforts wound up on one of the “failure” lists.
The best way not to fail? Plan carefully to succeed.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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