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Failure of your marketing campaign: what can you do?

, 14 August 2018

It’s a sobering observation: marketing actions are launched, sometimes representing months of work, thousands of euros are spent, but the campaign doesn’t catch on. There’s not much commitment, very few clicks, poor sales: your Key Performance Indicators are in the red. The pressure is increasing; it’s time for action. But what should you do?

It’s always Marketing’s fault!

The idea here is not to sob “poor little me” but frankly, in case of failure of a campaign or launch, it’s always towards Marketing that eyes turn. However, the failure of a launch may very well be the result of the product itself. So before looking for what’s wrong with your marketing campaign, zoom out a bit to take into account the big picture!

The best marketing campaign, concocted by the most talented team, will never sell clear cola! Nobody wants it. The example is caricatural but we must remember that the problem is not necessarily the marketing plan, but rather the service or product it supports.

Pepsico has led some of the best marketing campaigns in the world. But as far as Pepsi Crystal is concerned, nothing worked: nobody wanted this clear version of the iconic soda! A 100% product problem, more than poor performance by marketing.

By the way, the job of marketer is all the more thankless if successful, first the other departments will be congratulated, starting with the one in charge of production. Marketing will only be left with the crumbs of the honours (“the product would have sold, even without you!”). On the other hand, in case of failure, it won’t be the product that’s the problem, but those incompetent marketers who didn’t take the right angle or mobilize the right channels. Enough already!

In short, the first step is to pull your nose from the grindstone and ask yourself the question: is it my plan that is ineffective, or was that clear cola invented by R&D a bad idea? If, in fact, the product is competitive, then all is not lost: you can move on to the following points.

Should you review the fundamentals of your plan?

This is the base of marketing, one that has been taught for decades in business schools, and since the advent of digital marketing, it’s been somewhat ignored. It’s defined in one concept: positioning.

Positioning is the determination of the place that a product or brand will have to occupy vis à vis its competitors, essentially in the minds of the targeted consumers. The positioning of your product or service depends on two main elements: the competition and your target. It allows you to differentiate yourself from other available offers and direct your marketing actions to your audience.

Therefore, a failure of your campaign may simply mean that you’re not talking to the right target, or that you are using channels already crowded out by your competitors. Your positioning needs to be reviewed.

Renault’s Espace is a good example of a product with high potential, but poorly positioned. Initially proposed as a family van, the product failed miserably (9 models sold in July 1984, the month of the launch). But Renault believed in the product, and repositioned it as a high-end vehicle, by giving the eye to more well off fathers of big families. Bingo! Sales took off and rocketed. Today, the Renault Espace is part of the group’s luxury range.

“What if the real luxury was space? Renault made its Espace vehicle a spearhead of its luxury range. The vehicle was initially marketed as a low-end van. (Photo credit: Renault Initiale Paris)

Large companies rarely forget this key upstream step of the marketing plan. Moreover, an OpinionWay study (2015, in French) revealed that positioning was considered the number one responsibility of the marketing department in companies with a budget over €100,000. Positioning is therefore more often underestimated in smaller companies, who think they’re not concerned. But any campaign deserves pre-launch positioning!

Possible adjustments to save your campaign

These are the famous “low-hanging fruit”, literally fruit easy to pick, that is to say the actions that are quickly activated with strong performance at the key. The failure or success of a marketing plan sometimes comes down to little. And there are solutions to save the performance of a segment in difficulty.

The success of a campaign is sometimes only the identification of a handful of “low-hanging fruit”, easy-to-pick fruit, symbols of quick-to-adjust marketing actions and potentially life-saving results. (Photo credit: Ian Carroll, Flickr)

  • Direct Marketing: Emails have been sent to a targeted portion of your email address database, but the click rate is disappointing. You may have chosen the wrong target (see previous section). Test new segments of your mailing list! If you have already exhausted your entire database, there’s still the possibility of buying external email lists. For B2B it’s possible for example on a lead sales platform like TimeOne (French).
  • Social Media: Your content has received little engagement. The networks may be buzzing, and you’re inaudible. It’s possible to reprogram your content at more absurd times like 11pm or 5am. You might be surprised at the result! Also remember to communicate on networks that you might have forgotten. Your audience may be on Snapchat, not Twitter!
  • PR: The media coverage is disappointing. While waiting for better days, it’s possible to order sponsored articles for a few hundred euros. Time is running out, so use a centralized platform like sign up and order an article in just a few clicks, and it’s all published in a few days.

All departments have the right to make mistakes, even the marketing department! Nobody can systematically get it right first time. Sometimes it’s possible to give it another go. At other times, persevering is doomed to failure and you have to know how to start from scratch. One last piece of advice for the road: in both cases, make sure to give influence marketing sufficient importance in your marketing mix! This is often the most efficient channel and therefore the safest investment …

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