#marketingfail is a hashtag that strikes terror into the heart of all marketers. Marketing missteps can create a tsunami of unwanted media attention within minutes. In the past 7 days alone the hashtag has reached over 175,000 people on Twitter. Chances are, you saw or even criticized some of the biggest brand fails of last year. It's hard to imagine what these marketers were thinking, but I can take a guess at what they weren't thinking.
How will my audience, industry and competitors interpret my message?
When the Minerals Council of Australia launched its advertising campaign to promote the "endless possibilities of a little black rock," it certainly didn't seem to be in touch with the energy industry, environmental advocates or consumers. The marketing campaign, intended to emphasise the financial benefits of the coal industry, caused a furor that quickly went viral as people co-opted the campaign's hashtag—#coalisamazing—with sometimes serious and often hilarious, snarky tweets.
The ridicule on social media mirrored the response from key environmental organisations. Kelly O'Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation,made a statement calling the campaign "negligent" and said, "Amazing, not! Burning coal makes floods, droughts and brushfires more deadly. There are smarter ways to make electricity."
Certainly, the coal industry faces a challenging marketing job these days, but a better understanding of industry and market trends might have led the Minerals Council to take a more circumspect approach to a campaign. Rather than positioning fossil fuels as amazing, for example, it could have used reports about pollution problems in developing countries to inspire a campaign around helping these countries avoid a repeat of hard lessons already learned in Australia, the U.S. and other developed nations.
A simple check to avoid a #marketingfail
Presumably, the #coalisamazing campaign wouldn't have seen the light of day had there been a little research on the latest news and sentiment about the coal industry. A look at the SWOT report on the Australian Coal industry brings up the first red flag, stating that domestic miners have been coming under increasing pressure from rising environmental concerns. A quick news search brings up articles detailing the industry's ongoing PR struggle.
As marketers, we know we can't please everyone, but we can also avoid widespread failure with a bit of digging into the landscape of our world.
p.s. 3 ways you can apply this information right now to better understand news monitoring and analytics