When Marketing Campaigns Fail...

Things go wrong.  Timelines get stretched. Results fail to meet expectations.  These are realities all marketing leaders face.  This is especially true at smaller, entrepreneurial companies where marketing strategy is often summarized as “throwing s#!t on the wall to see what sticks.”  Invariably it won’t all “stick.”  What then is the best course of action when a campaign fails?

Often we encourage clients to stick to the larger plan and to understand that changing market perceptions takes time and that any failed campaign is an opportunity to rethink how and why they are targeting particular audiences.  This creates stability and predictability to marketing programs, and it may be the wrong course of action.

Shred Plan B
One of the most documented companies to focus more on planning than the actual plan is Toyota and it’s historic quest to overcome General Motors.  In Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan examines the contrast between the two companies, highlighting Toyota’s culture of encouraging employees to continually plan, question established (habitual) practices and to think creatively.

Given the speed with which social media and Internet technologies enable marketers to interact with audiences, it’s worth considering that the planning process is never complete.  The days of developing an overall marketing program and budget in October for the following year are at an end.  Market reactions and developments simply move too fast to encumber a marketing program to the market conditions that existed twelve, nine, or even six months prior.

A key element to creating a flexible and responsive marketing team that can plan on the fly is staffing.  A quick study of job openings on LinkedIn shows us that as of this moment there are 1081 openings for “social media manager.”  Just as Toyota hired Americans in the 1980s and 1990s to better understand American markets and employees, companies today need to leverage teams that can tap into new tools, technologies and approaches to create revenue generation opportunities. 

For years the adage “Plan the Work. Work the Plan” has focused teams on overall program execution.  Perhaps it is time for us to develop an expression that fosters greater curiosity and innovation. 

Why Not?


  1. If you fail, it means that something goes wrong, not in accordance with the rules! But this should be fixed by analyzing the issue!

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