People say you should learn from your mistakes. Not me. I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes. It can save you a lot of headaches and sometimes a little embarrassment.
As Content Development Manager, I oversee a team of (awesome) SEO copywriters who help build and optimize content marketing strategies for our clients. But rather than tell you how incredible we are (seriously, we’re great), I’d like to use this Manager Monday to take a look at a few #epicfails by some of the biggest brands in the world–it’s much funnier and, honestly, more interesting.
Without further ado, here’s my big brand blooper reel for content marketing fails.
New York Times
Most of us have done it before. We’ve sent an email or maybe a text message that we probably shouldn’t have sent. However, it’s usually not to the New York Times’ 8 million current subscribers.
In December 2011, a simple email campaign turned into a marketing nightmare for one of the nation’s most popular newspapers. The paper meant to send an email to people who recently cancelled their subscription asking them if they’d be interested in signing back up at a discount. When the current subscribers received the email instead of the intended 300 ex-subscribers, most responded with concern that this was spam and some with anger that they didn’t get the discount.
Advice: Always make sure you check your recipients before clicking “Send” on any message.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins’s final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, I sincerely hope you avoided downtown D.C. last spring.
Amazon came under fire last April when a Kindle billboard in Washington displayed the first page of the final book which revealed key plot points of the previous two books.
Advice: Don’t be a blabber mouth!
I’m a big fan of user-generated content. It makes my life as a writer so much easier. I mean people are literally doing the work for me and it’s good for SEO–#winning (is that still going on?).
But what happens when your users don’t have anything engaging to say? Well, you’d be in a situation similar to Pepsi whose home page consists of nearly all tweets that get little social engagement. They have nearly 9.5 million “likes” on Facebook yet the posts on their home page typically garner less than 10 (a lot of them have none).
Advice: If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything…no, no wait–say something, but you might have to rely on more than your users to do so. Produce some of your own content and be more selective with the user-generated content you publish on your site.
I’ve seen this done on a few fashion websites before and really liked the idea. They use “in-image advertising” to market multiple products. So if you don’t like the jeans you see on the model in the picture but you absolutely love the necklace they’re wearing, there will be a link that directs you to that product’s page.
Unfortunately, this backfired big time for Express. They decided to help users find products on their site that were similar to clothing items in photos pulled from Yahoo News. This resulted in Express unintentionally offering users the chance to buy a scarf resembling one worn by an Afghan militant (the picture was taken from a story discussing a bloody attack in Afghanistan).
Advice: Stick to celebrity news, and just filter out stories that involve Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown… okay, maybe just stick to your own photos.
GE recently launched a site called ecomagination. In theory, it’s awesome. It aims to be a thought-leadership blog for green technology and green living. They currently have almost 96,000 likes on Facebook, but the majority of their content struggles to get more than handful of likes. Why you ask?
Well, that’s because the majority of their content is self-promotional. It looks more like a news section of a site than a thought-leadership blog. This distances them from their audience and hurts their brand. People want to hear about the issues, not that your company is greener than an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.
Advice: Be confident about your brand, not cocky. Either that or re-name your site egomagination.
Social media is a powerful device. In fact, it’s so powerful that users can take the reins on your social media marketing campaign and turn it into a (in my opinion rather hilarious) prank.
Back in July of 2012, a group of pranksters hijacked a Facebook promotion designed to send Pitbull to the most-liked Walmart. They used the hashtag #ExilePitbull for a campaign that eventually sent the Miami-based rapper to Kodiak, Alaska. At least he was a good sport about it saying, “What you gotta understand is that I will go anywhere in the world for my fans.”
Advice: I’m sorry, but this is just funny.
We all make mistakes, even some of the biggest, most well-liked brands out there. Sure most are unintentional, but in a world where your mistakes can be scrutinized under the microscope of the Internet (kind of what I’m doing for example), it’s important, now more than ever, to know your audience and think each strategy through to the end.
Oh, and by the way, as much as I talked up my team earlier in the post, we’ve learned from our mistakes as well. In fact, if you see any in the post, give me a shout. Happy marketing!
If you can make your product sexy, there’s a good chance sales will spike. In the online marketplace, one of the easiest ways to do that is through your content–appealing, engaging text and product images.
But what do I mean by “sexy” content? Well, sexy content attracts users through its looks–originally. Like a pretty girl or a handsome man, if your content is easy on the eyes, it’ll attract people. Then, like an intelligent woman or man, if you have something good to say, you’ll keep them there.
So how do we get our content sexy?
Trim the Fat
Like I said, your content should be easy on the eyes. That means you need to trim the fat. By eliminating long, drawn-out sentences and paragraphs, you’ll be able to whittle your content down to a concise message.
Big chunks of text, bogged down with unnecessary modifiers, scare readers off. By keeping things brief with one sentence logically flowing into the next, you’ll find that more visitors read your content from beginning to end.
Be Active and Build up the Muscle
What sounds better: The ball was hit by the golfer down the fairway or the golfer clobbered the ball, launching it down the middle of the fairway? Most people would say the latter. That’s because it’s in the active voice.
Good writing contains strong action verbs. Good writing packs a punch. It keeps your readers on their toes rather than lulling them to sleep. Don’t be afraid to flex those muscles and create strong content that keeps readers locked in.
Spice it Up
Predictability isn’t sexy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of sexy. Content that’s formatted the same way on every page will turn people off.
Instead, spice things up with a picture. Break your content up with subheadings and bulleted lists–anything to provide a little variety, a little diversity. This will also make your content easier to scan which improves the user experience.
Well-Groomed and Articulate
Being sexy isn’t all about looks. If something is truly sexy, it’s both physically and intellectually attractive. This means your content needs to be error-free and it needs to bring something interesting to the conversation. No one wants to date a person with the intelligence of parking cone, regardless of how attractive they may be.
I know that if I start reading an article and find a grammatical error, I automatically like it less. Also, if I start to read something and feel like I’m not getting anything out of it, I’ll stop.
So, how sexy is your content? Leave a comment here on our blog or message me directly at dheinkel(at)webimax.com.