Everyone makes mistakes, but none are quite as visible (and funny) as the ones made in marketing.
Commiserating over our own content marketing mistakes over the years, we thought, “Hey, I bet we’re not the only ones!”
As it turns out, the rest of the WordPress VIP team, along with our customers, had plenty of terrifyingly entertaining marketing blunders to share.
Note: Each blurb is told from the point of view of the person who submitted the story. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.
The great BCC blunder
One afternoon I received a canned email blast from Twitter Ads with all the latest tips and tricks for using the platform’s ad interface. The problem? Instead of using an email client or BCC, someone sent an email to 400 marketers with everyone’s email address displayed.
Hilarity immediately ensued, with rapid-fire reply-alls, introductions, memes, and people pitching their products. Twitter quickly caught on and asked us all to ‘pretty please’ not reply anymore.
We moved the party to both Spotify and LinkedIn, where we—to this day—have a collaborative playlist and a private LinkedIn group to stay connected.
A vanishing virus
In the wake of a worldwide virus attack, our email team at an anti-virus security company accidentally emailed a notification saying “your protection is expired, act fast” to a user list actually current with their protection.
We immediately realized our mistake and sent out a quick “we made a mistake, no need to renew or extend your protection” email. Despite that, we had our greatest response ever with a huge percentage extending their service for an additional year or two. Fortunately, I don’t recall a single complaint!
Suggestive subject lines
While I was a student at a well-known, world-renowned university, they sent out an email about supporting the public arts… but forgot the “L” in “public.”
A titillating typo
The agency I previously worked for had a typo in a print ad for a client’s phone number. The ad was for a major medical industry/professional event that the client spent a ton of money on. Turns out the number printed on the ad was for a phone sex line. We didn’t catch it until after the ad went to print.
Mystery mail delivery
I arranged to have a bunch of direct mail pieces printed, and then had them mailed to the completely wrong client in the wrong location.
Creating an email I imported a spreadsheet with no column headers and transposed the first and last name fields. So everyone got an email that should have read, ‘Hello (first name)!’ Instead, it populated all recipients’ last names. Needless to say, the CEO was a little grumpy about that.
While training a new associate on how to use our email service provider, we accidentally sent out an e-newsletter filled with snarky placeholders to the full list of 25,000+ subscribers. Had to quickly follow up that email with an apology!
One wrong send
I sent the wrong offer in an email campaign. It cost the company about $500k…
I sent an email via Mailchimp with the subject line “Send Us a Sext” instead of “Send Us a Text.” This was to market our new service ZipWhip, which lets you text your insurance agent directly from your phone.
Phone number faux pas
I worked at an ad agency and one of my clients was a major computer brand looking for a series of print ads. The client provided legal copy, web address, phone number, etc., and approved all of the copy in the proofs multiple times.
Turns out, the client gave us the wrong phone number. We never called to test it like we normally do… So, some poor, old lady in the Midwest got dozens of calls about computers.
I worked in marketing at a top university that held the oldest copyright library in the world (Bodleian Library). Doing anything cutting-edge was almost out of the question. But finally, in 2008, the digital projects team was granted authority to experiment with a podcast. The obvious bit of wordplay was just staring them in the face—the Bodleian Libraries’ podcasts would be called… Bodcasts! Sorted!
Maybe nobody even thought to do a search for “bodcasts” first? Or maybe somebody did, but didn’t feel comfortable coming to a stuffy meeting full of suits and saying, “Uhh, we can’t use that name because…” confessing they’d discovered that Playboy magazine had already been using the name “bodcasts” to brand their series of video podcasts, each involving very risque content.
By the time anybody spoke up, the new podcast name was cemented in half a dozen recorded episodes, and thousands of promotional mugs had been printed for distribution to library staff and readers. For a long while, anybody who followed our marketing direction to “search for bodcasts” would, unless their search settings were configured to avoid explicit content, see well-established content from Playboy appear above ours in the results.
Always, always, always check your new brand name isn’t already in use.
I put a spell-check on you
I sent an email with the subject line “Your invited” to a list of nearly a million teachers—most were English teachers.
Content strategy is scary
Hopefully these terrifying tales got you thinking about how you can fool-proof your own marketing and content strategies. We know the thought of revamping your content strategy might seem horrifying, but Parse.ly is here to help. Read our series How to Do Better Content Marketing to learn how to avoid making the most cringeworthy marketing mistakes.