3 Frightening Marketing Horror Stories (and How to Avoid Them)


Halloween is a fun time of the year filled with costumes, candy, and creativity. It’s a good time for businesses to get in the spirit, and also to stop and think—is anything spooky going on with your marketing?

Marketing horror stories take place year-round, in businesses big and small. From content that sucks the blood out of customer loyalty to zombies managing your digital marketing efforts, here are three nightmare marketing scenarios, and how to avoid them.

1. Your Content is Killing Customer Loyalty

Whether it’s your blogs, emails, or social media posts, you think you’re putting out great content that’s interesting and engaging to your audience. The horror comes when you realize that your subscriber or follower lists are stagnant or worse, dropping. Maybe you’re even getting some “nasty-grams” from people who don’t want to read your emails.

It’s important to recognize that not all customers are the same and they shouldn’t get all the same content that feels generic or like spam. In some cases, specifically with email communication, you can even get into legal or compliance trouble for sending unsolicited marketing collateral.

Part of what makes this such a frightening scenario is that it’s completely avoidable. For one thing, ensure all contacts on your lists have opted in. Don’t spam your audience and you’ll steer clear of any associated regulatory issues.

Then, take time to study, understand, and segment your audience prior to disseminating a marketing message across various channels. You may consider segmenting by location, but it’s a good idea to develop your lists based on lead intelligence such as where they are in the buyer’s journey, or how they’ve previously engaged with your company. As an obvious example, your email marketing to long-time customers should be different than email marketing to prospective customers just getting to know your brand.

2. Zombies are Running Your AdWords

If you’re spending money on paid search but not carefully monitoring and measuring your performance, your end result could be an AdWords campaign straight out of The Walking Dead. When you have no idea if your AdWords are worth the investment, that’s scary—but it’s much more common than most business owners probably realize. Only 29% of businesses with AdWords accounts effectively track conversions.

Preventing your AdWords account from going zombie can be easily done—it just requires a commitment to monitoring and making adjustments to improve your results (or having the right resources in place to take this task off your plate).

3. You Thought You Knew (But Were Dead Wrong)

Every business owner or marketer would like to think they know their customers and target audience inside and out. However, horror can occur when businesses or brands make assumptions about how their target audience feels about something.

Take the now-infamous McDonald’s #McDstories campaign on Twitter. While designed to encourage people to engage with their fondest memories of McDonald’s, instead what they got were social media horror stories of people’s worst experiences at the chain—including one story about becoming ill after eating a fish sandwich.

The Indiana Republican Party ran into a similar issue with their “Share Your Obamacare Horror Story” campaign, where they assumed most of the audience had a negative experience, only to hear the exact opposite via social media once the campaign began.

The good news is, there are ways to avoid being dead wrong about your audience, and the associated backlash from poor marketing messaging based on false assumptions. Research and gather quality data on your audience (and know that not everyone in your audience fits the same buyer persona). Ensure your messaging and creative speak to your audience and reflect the data you gathered on their demographics, psychographics including lifestyle data, shopping habits and brand preferences, and more.

Crafting a strategic marketing plan and the right advertising creative to speak to your target audience effectively doesn’t happen overnight. But doing so will increase your marketing ROI.

From the team at Hubbard Chicago, have fun this Halloween! But after the decorations come down and the leftover candy is gone, keep these stories in mind to avoid being a victim of marketing horror year-round.

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