6 Outdated Marketing Tactics You Need to Leave in the Past (Where They Belong)

Promotional-only social media, paper-based marketing and poorly produced videos are on the “no-no” list. And who can forget that “Domino’s Forever” campaign?


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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Marketing is complex. With seemingly endless techniques, how do you reach and resonate with your audience? First things first: You need to know what you shouldn’t do. Last year, “Domino’s Forever” was a campaign created by a Russian Domino’s franchise. If customers tattooed the Domino’s logo on their skin, they were told, they’d get 100 free pizzas yearly for 100 years.

Related: 7 Dreadful Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2018

Initially, that strategy worked big-time: Although it may sound strange to us, hundreds of customers jumped in and started getting those tattoos. Yet, even as images of their freshly inked images flowed in, Domino’s imposed restrictions on its offer. Suddenly, the tattoos had a size limit; and only 350 newly tattooed people qualified for the reward. As you might guess, people were outraged. 

Bad move, because customers who feel wronged don’t soon forget.

There’s science behind that statement: According to reporting in the Washington Post, “Research shows that memories for negative experiences are more vivid than those for positive experiences …” And those Domino’s customers certainly chalked up a negative experience.

So, if you’re the marketer, remember: It’s hard to make a good impression on a customer but really easy to make a bad impression, especially when it comes to marketing. Here are some moves not to make in marketing that date back to the past and shouldn’t still be with us in the present.

1. Trying to serve people en masse

Every person is unique, and you need to cater to that fact. Gone are the days of blanket personalization. According to a 2017 State of Personalization report by Segment, almost half of customers surveyed said they would likely be repeat buyers  because of a personalized shopping experience. 

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

If you’re not already collecting data on your customers and using it to target specific demographics through your marketing efforts, it’s time to start. Doing the bare minimum, like addressing a customer by his or her first name when you send a promotional email, simply isn’t enough anymore. 

2. Putting ink on paper

What happens with most of the mail that comes to your house? What if a company, religious group or other organization drops off a brochure at your residence … do you read it? Chances are, you don’t.

That’s why experts are moving away from brochures and other paper-marketing techniques. Print marketing is expensive, time-consuming and often ineffective. Digital, on the other hand, can be fast, effective and cost-efficient. 

3. Committing video production faux pas

Have you seen This Is a Generic Brand Video by Dissolve? If not, it’s worth watching. The video provides insight into the types of video marketing that don’t add up to much. Videos with stock content, vague business words and optimistic background music are outdated and overproduced. 

“As percentages go, 91 percent of customers have watched a video about a product or service they care about,” Rohan Sheth, founder and CEO of GrowRev Digital, wrote in a blog post. If nine out of ten of your customers watch your videos, they need to get real value out of the content they see. Otherwise, they’ll stop viewing and start taking their business elsewhere. 

4. Creating promotional-only social media

It’s easy to lose customers because of social media, especially if you use it only to advertise. Sure, marketing on social media is successful: According to Sprout Social, 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from the companies they follow on social media. But making money should never be your sole purpose on the app. 

After all, customers abandon brands that are overly promotional on social media. Before you think about social as an advertisement, consider how you can use it to drive engagement and strengthen your brand’s following. 

5. Moving away from email

Some think email marketing is dead, but the jury is still out. According to a blog post by Keala Kanae, co-founder and CEO of AWOL Academy, “As a business owner at the current times, don’t let the social media frenzy trick you … email marketing isn’t dead … Undoubtedly, marketing your services or products by email can be a quick, manageable and cost-effective method of reaching new clients and keeping the existing ones.”

For example, think of Dell’s MarketingSherpa Email project. Thanks to a GIF-focused campaign, the company increased its revenue by 109 percent. Over email, Dell sent animated images that enticed viewers and led them down the sales funnel. 

6. Failing to go beyond the basics

When it comes to analytics, the more the merrier. You’re probably already using some analytics to review your marketing efforts, but there are likely many techniques and metrics you’re not yet putting to good use. 

Digital marketing is constantly changing, which means there are more analytics you can put into your marketing strategy than ever before. You may believe that the measures you’re currently using are fine, but they can likely be much better.

The more you study analytics and put them to use, the better your ROI will become

Another thing: Don’t let outright marketing mistakes happen.

Customers may forgive, but they don’t forget; just ask H&M. Last year, the retailer published a photo of an African American child wearing a hoodie that read, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” The reaction on social media was swift and angry.

And, though the advertisement was posted in one country, it quickly gained traction around the world. Afterwards, H&M hired a “diversity leader” to try to disprove accusations that the company was at worst racist and at best oblivious.  

Related: How Many of These Video Marketing Mistakes Are You Making? 

Needless to say, making it in today’s business world is hard enough without bad marketing. Although outdated marketing tactics won’t always be detrimental to your brand, they certainly won’t help, either. Luckily, with a sound marketing plan, up-to-date tactics and some creativity, you can give customers what they want and improve your bottom line simultaneously. 

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3 Lessons From Recent Big Brand Fails

Through watching the stumbles of national brands, smaller businesses can learn what to do — and not do — to move up to the next level.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It’s never been easier to build a brand. Right now with a little effort you can build a following on Instagram or Shopify, start selling stuff and create a nice small business for yourself. But, if you want to move things to the next level and become a real enterprise, you need to learn to market like the big guys.

Related: 3 Marketing Mistakes That Kill Tech Startups

Ironically, one of the best ways to do that is to watch what happens when they screw up. Branding failures aren’t just entertaining. By illustrating just how terrible the fallout can be if you get things wrong, they illustrate the importance of having the right principles and systems in place. Through watching the stumbles of national brands, smaller businesses can learn what to do — and not do — to move up to the next level.

Helpfully, some of America’s biggest companies have obliged with some pretty spectacular brand fails lately.

1. Amazon selling sugary cereals at Whole Foods

Like lots of other people, I was excited when Amazon bought Whole Foods. The whole premise of the deal was that the scale of Amazon would enable more people to access the quality, healthy food on offer at pricey Whole Foods. But, then recently I spoke to a few friends who reported seeing things like Honey Nut Cheerios on the shelves of their local Whole Foods.

Let me be clear: You’re not supposed to be able to buy Honey Nut Cheerios at Whole Foods. The brand experience is all about health and quality, not processed, sugar-laden junk. Opening up a premium brand to more consumers can be a great move, but that’s not what Jeff Bezos and Amazon appear to actually be doing with Whole Foods so far. Instead, they’re violating the basic promise of the Whole Foods brand, and risking diluting it beyond all recognition.

This isn’t just a temptation for behemoths like Amazon. Smaller brands face similar questions all the time as they start to grow and add new revenue streams. Is that new sponsorship or partnership actually in line with your values? Are you broadening the appeal of your brand or are you selling out? Adding new customers is great. Losing your own core identity isn’t.

Lesson: Never forget your core mission. Filter all new revenue streams and partnerships through the lens of your values.

Related: The 5 Biggest Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

2. IHOP’s half-baked IHOB stunt

I’m all for clever, disruptive marketing. Stunts can get people talking about your brand. But, not if you do them in the half-baked way IHOP recently did when it briefly changed its name to IHOB (for International House of Burgers) to highlight its new menu options.

I understand what IHOP was going for — these days lots of carb-conscious customers aren’t excited about sitting down to a giant stack of starchy pancakes and IHOP wanted to get the word out that they offer alternatives. But, its execution of the idea was just really weak. If you’re going to go and disrupt the market in a radical way, you need to go all in.

Wendy’s is a good example of a brand that succeeds. Its logo might be a sweet looking little girl, but on Twitter that little girl deals out some serious shade. It’s outrageous, hilarious and consistent.

You get that level of execution the same way you do in any other area of business — you know what you’re aiming for and then hire the right people to execute it. If you’re going for humor, bring in a stand-up comedian, for instance. Don’t rely on the same old advertising agency.

Lesson: Wishy-washy won’t get you anywhere. Go all in on your concept and make sure you hire the right people to get you there.

Related: 11 Disturbingly Offensive Ads That Landed Big Brands in Trouble

3. Starbucks’ one-day diversity training

When a national scandal erupted over a racist Starbucks barista who called the cops on two black customers who were just sitting in a store waiting for a meeting, the company actually did a lot of things right. Chairman Howard Schultz immediately came out with a strong and unequivocal statement that the company doesn’t tolerate racism. He didn’t hedge his words and he didn’t delay. Second, the company demonstrated a real commitment to change by closing its stores and missing out on a day of revenue to train its employees to avoid bias. Again, bravo.

But, the problem is that brand building isn’t about one-off gestures. It’s about creating structures to make sure you brand is executed consistently over time. A crisis is an opportunity not just to make an authentic apology but also to change the way you do things long-term. Update your website underscoring your values. Develop a crisis response plan for the future. Create new training that happens not just once but on an ongoing basis. Set up policies that nudge your customer-facing employees to always behave in ways aligned with your brand.

To the best of my knowledge, Starbucks hasn’t done any of that. Which creates a huge risk of a similar incident happening again in the future, and if it does there will be no way to rebuild a brand that’s all about community and safe spaces for people to gather.

Lesson: Responding to a crisis isn’t just about on-off gestures. The more important work is setting up an architecture that ensures problems don’t happen again in the future.



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