Friday, December 10, 2010

"Do no harm": Marketing fails are no laughing matter

With my most recent Ad Age, I received an advert-newspaper from Daily Candy -- an online brand with some cachet. At first, I admired the effort and intent ... going against the tide, setting yourself apart.

I am familiar with the approach; a few years ago, my company launched a print magazine that I happily edited. This magazine is still referenced by clients today. Even then, "going print" was decidedly cutting against the current; and, despite the costs, it worked. (In other words, it made a positive impression; whether it earned its keep is harder to discern.)

But the more I leafed through this circular from The Daily Candy -- inserted, one must assume, at major expense -- the more I felt that the cool factor had evaporated at page 3 or 4.

In fact, I came to feel that Daily Candy was aligning itself with a dying medium -- print on news paper -- without abrogating the things that made it worthwhile to get black ink on my nice white pants. The medium was the only message; Daily Candy had failed to materialize or make sense of its allegiance to newspapers.

I was reminded then that marketing can be a dangerous activity. We often assume that there is "mediocre" marketing and "excellent" marketing. But what about "unsound" marketing? "Deficient and deleterious" marketing?

What about marketing that is radioactive to your brand?

Marketers in particular may feel that, no matter what we do, at least we have done something. I mean, something is better than nothing -- right?

That is a truism we need to question. Particularly among those with little knowledge of our brands, a half-hearted, inept, inappropriate effort can do real damage. And the first rule of marketing should be: "Do no harm."

Think about this the next time you are pushing something out the door -- your eyes almost closed to issues you know need to be addressed. Think about this when you acquiesce to committee-generated creatives that embarrass you to even read in private.

A brand is a higher calling ... and failing to meet the challenge of doing it justice should give us pause. Do good, not harm. We are our brands' only protectors, only advocates.

Give them their due.

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