Why Marketing Campaigns Fail

I have something to confess to you. It’s embarrassing, and I was struggling about whether to tell you about it. But first, I have a question for you …

Why is it that most of your marketing campaigns aren’t as effective as you’d like them to be?

Come on now, it’s just you and me here chatting. You know what I’m talking about. You had grand plans, didn’t you? You thought that last one was really going to go viral, right? But it never hit that critical mass, did it?

How do I know? That’s where my confession comes.

My last campaign for Promoter.io bombed.

That isn’t quite honest. It did get a lot of views. But those views never turned into paying customers, so really it just made a lot of noise for no return.

But why did my campaign bomb? I have spent a lot of time thinking about that, and I think that the answer to that question might just be applicable to you and your marketing campaigns. It’s always easier to laugh at someone else’s misfortune, so maybe by studying my failure, you might gain insights that will prevent you from making the same mistakes.

Let me tell you a little bit about this campaign. Elections in 2016 had been a huge hot button issue. We thought it would be interesting if we ran a national Net Promoter Score® survey in order to gather sentiment that might give insight and clarity to the election. So we invented something new … The Net Presidential Score.

Could we predict who would become the next POTUS by NPS score?

Could we predict who would become the next POTUS by NPS score?

You can read about it more on our blog but it worked much like any regular NPS survey. We asked on a scale from 0-10 how likely you would be to recommend each presidential candidate to your friends and colleagues. Then we posted the results for the world to see.

At the time we came up with the idea, it seemed like just the kind of campaign that could go viral. Who knows … maybe we would even be invited to discuss the idea on TV. The sky was the limit.

And if you looked at our analytics, you might have called it a success too.

But the conversion rate from views into customers was next to nil. I sat down with one of our advisors recently and explained the campaign to him. I asked him where did it go wrong? What he told me was really insightful.

He said that he always looks at marketing campaigns through the lens of a Venn Diagram. He took a napkin and drew three overlapping circles.

Venn Diagram

In the first circle was what your product does. In the second circle was what customers want — their deepest desires. In the last is what the press/media/Facebook/Twitter wants.

Here is where I first wanted to interject. I wanted to argue with him. Facebook and Twitter in the same group as press and media? But then I realized that Facebook and Twitter are two of the primary places that I get my news these days, so I just kept quiet.

The Presidential election stunt was clearly aimed at the press/media part of the Venn diagram. It also overlapped nicely with the product circle. But why did it not end up converting to paying customers? Because it missed the third part of the Venn diagram.

The Presidential election stunt didn’t overlap at all with the deepest desires of our ideal customer.

How many times have you watched a funny commercial on TV and had no idea what they were trying to sell? Same problem. The campaign might be viral. It might show off your product. And still nobody cares.

Who gets this right? There are plenty of examples. In TV, Budweiser almost always hits the trifecta. Funny commercials that go viral, show off the product, and overlap with the deep desires of their customers. Another TV example is the Axe body spray commercials or Old Spice.

Or, how about this video that has been seen over 33 million times:

One of the most brilliant examples of a company hitting the trifecta was done recently by a Promoter.io customer, Jet.com.

Careculator

During this past Holiday season, Jet.com launched a campaign called “Careculator”. The concept was to put a price tag on your friendships online — via Facebook.

The way it worked was you’d connect your Facebook account and it would analyze and calculate the amount you should spend on each friend on Christmas. The calculation was based on the number of times your friend had engaged with you (i.e. liked your post, commented, shared, etc.).

As a marketer, I was impressed. Like, seriously impressed.

Price of friendshipThe calculator was fun and ingenious, but what really made it smart was that they made it super viral. I mean, of course I’m going to share the amount my friend is worth on Facebook. In my case, it was my wife. And I was sure to rub salt in the wound.

But, what really completed the trifecta was the final component to the campaign, which was to recommend gifts that were available on Jet.com that fit within the dollar amount calculated for each friend.

Brilliant.

They absolutely nailed the trifecta.

Product/Customer/Media. You need all three. You can’t just pick two. The graveyard of failed marketing ideas is full of ideas that just pick two.

So don’t let yourself fall into the trap. Let our failed campaign serve as a reminder for you.

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Dana Severson

Dana Severson is the Director of Marketing at Promoter.io and cofounder of Startups Anonymous. Former founder & CEO of Chasm.io/Wahooly and AngelPad Alum. In addition to focusing on growth at Promoter, Dana is a weekly columnist for Inc.com

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