Marketing Faux Pas

Eric Spitznagel, in his SFGate article Memorable marketing flip-flops, highlights the errors of some well-known, well-respected brands.

Should we caulk up these mistakes to the fact that we’re all human and, by definition, imperfect?  Or are there lessons to be learned from each faux pas?

For me, there are two takeaways.  Each of the companies cited:

  1. Was focused on solving an operational issue when they made their misstep.
  2. Quickly admitted their error and took actions to remedy it.

Problem solving

When you’re dealing with a ‘problem’ it’s so easy to focus on finding a solution that you forget to ask yourself “How will this solution impact my customer?  As a customer how would I react to this decision?”

Don’t overlook your customer in your decision-making process.  Make sure that everyone in your organization, upon identifying a solution, asks the two questions mentioned above.

Getting your employees to switch hats from operating manager to customer dramatically reduces the likelihood of a major faux pas.

Error correction

Despite our best efforts our humanity is ever-present and we’ll:

  • Forget to ask the questions
  • Or answer the questions without serious consideration
  • Antagonize our customers
  • Suffer the unpleasant consequences

When that happens, do as the companies cited in the article did, admit your mistake and thank your customers for the feedback.

Whether you’re selling B2B or B2C, your customers are human too.  They know what it’s like to make a mistake.  They’ll appreciate your candor, humility and efforts to alleviate their concerns.  They’ll also forgive you.  In the 40+ years I’ve been in the business world, I’ve never had a customer who has failed to forgive me my humanity when I admitted my mistake.

My thanks to Mr. Spitzmagel for reminding me of two valuable lessons.

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