Sorry! How to Recover When You’ve Made a Massive Marketing Mistake


Every once in a while, marketers get things massively, spectacularly wrong. Over the years, you have probably heard about costly campaigns being cancelled, and public apologies being issued. Memorable occasions when brands put their proverbial foot in it included when AT&T tweeted a picture of twin beams of light overlaid on the twin towers on a smart phone. That prompted a backlash for their insensitivity. Or what about the time that McDonalds compared wanting a Big Mac to depression?

It is good to know that even mega brands make mistakes, but that does not make the prospect of joining them any less terrifying. Here are tips on how you can avoid this sort of mistake, and what to do if you inadvertently make a massive marketing mistake.

What Is a Massive Marketing Mistake?

The good news is that not everything can be classified as a huge marketing faux pas. A spelling mistake on printed marketing materials may be embarrassing, but no one will remember it in a week’s time. Likewise, a marketing campaign that misses the mark might be frustrating, but it is more of a lesson than a catastrophe.

Truly huge marketing mistakes are those that anger your customers, or offend them. If you make your customers angry, offend them or insult them, chances are you will lose them forever, and that definitely is a disaster!

How to Avoid a Massive Marketing Mistake

The good news is that the spectacular type of marketing mistake is relatively easy to avoid. You do not need to be working with a big ad agency either. In fact, since some of the biggest and most memorable marketing mistakes were made during campaigns managed by world famous ad agencies.

Here are the golden rules to avoid making a mistake like this in your direct mail campaign:

  • Avoid any of the “isms.” Sexism, racism and so on. If it would be offensive to say to someone, it is definitely offensive to write down!
  • Avoid any strong language. If you would not say it to your spinster aunt or grandmother, it is not appropriate for printed marketing materials.
  • Be extra careful when it comes to humor. Humor is subjective, and there is a big difference between a one-liner delivered in person and one that you write down. Even if you think it is funny, it safer to stick to facts.

A good idea would be to have your direct mail design drafted, and then have several beta readers take a look and comment before you go to print.

Sorry! What to do if You Have Made a Mistake

Even if you are extra careful, avoid obvious errors and get a team of beta readers to test your direct mail materials, there is always a chance that you will offend your customers somewhere along the line. If you do, the best thing you can do is apologize as quickly and as publicly as possible. If you get complaints about a direct mail campaign, immediately send out a written apology to everyone on your mailing list, and add it to your social media campaigns and on your website. After all, trust and honesty are the cornerstone of your relationship with your customers.

View The Checklist