Brand Mistakes – Halloween Special

Brand Mistakes – Halloween Special

Blog Thumbnail Brand Mistakes – Halloween Special

Switch off the lights, close the door and huddle in. You’re about to hear three jaw clenching real life marketing fails that put the brrr in brands. What makes these stories so chilling is they are not the result of debatably bad creative judgement like the moldy Burger King Campaign – no – they are relatable process screw ups that can happen to any one of us on a bad day.


The Typo Before Christmas

It was a dark and stormy night on Brand Street. A street famous in this big city for its big ad agencies. Within the bowels of one of its most respected creative houses, a print production department was still humming. You see, it was mid October and they were finalizing Finished Art for a national department store’s Christmas launch catalog. Things were running behind schedule, but y’know, that’s just how it goes.

Rebecca* the Account Manager who loved Christmas more than she should, (she was distantly related to Irving Berlin who wrote ‘White Christmas’), was keenly on duty to shepherd approvals through all avenues and go to print by 10pm – the drop-dead deadline.

8:15pm came with a ping. An email from Finished Artist Jemma* circulating the proof saying it was approved by her and Jay*, the Head of Production.

8:53pm and a call from Marty* the Copywriter who’d checked every doll, kitchen appliance and novelty sweater had the correct description and price. All approved.

8:55pm, another ping. Amy* the client confirmed her approval. She’d paid particular attention to the legal fine print. Signing off with a “Go to print and don’t spare the horses! Thx Amy”, she switched on Netflix with a sigh of relief.

9:15pm, a third ping, this time a Slack from Art Director Ryan* who’d been out to dinner. He was pretty happy and sent a thumbs up emoji.

9:30pm – no word from the Creative Director Alex*.

9:45pm – still no word from Alex. Rebecca sweats. The production team is getting annoyed as they want to watch Netflix too. They’ve had enough and want to switch off – or on – as the case may be.

10:00pm – Alex cannot be reached.

10:16pm – The agency team make a judgement call to print.

As the first 200,000 copies roll off the line, it took a delivery guy to point out the blindingly obvious. “The word ‘Christmas’ has a T in it yeah?”. Yes, the front page of the catalog proudly wished one and all a Very Merry ‘Chrismas’.

The financial and environmental consequences of this tiny typo in such a prominent position were so enormous, it triggered an entire workflow system review both within the agency and all its clients. Amazingly, no heads rolled – this time.

The Managing Director implemented workflow software that made creative impossible to proceed at each stage without fundamental checkpoints being approved by each collaborator, e.g. “Have you checked the headline?”. In the launch address to all staff he concluded deadpan; “The next person to forget the T in Christmas is fired”.

Moral of the story:

Minimize human error by having a centralized workflow processes tailor-made for agencies and marketers. IntelligenceBank has created award winning DAM Software that manages creative assets from brief to deployment and beyond. Along with highly a visible Brand Guidelines Hub, it has Marketing Operations tools so you can schedule, track, notify, mark up and set controls preventing work being released without approval from all stakeholders. It’s simple to use by any headline avoider and integrates seamlessly with existing software your creative team is already using.

Now wipe that look of schadenfreude off your face and on to the next story…


The Village of the DAMed

Accomplished Account Director Farida* lands a plum job at a new agency to run a large infant and pre-school toy account. It’s a fresh team and she’s one of several new hires on both the agency and client side.

Wanting to get her hands dirty, she takes over the management of an important brand activation campaign about to launch a new educational line of play products. A core part of the activation is the live on-stage drawing of ten $100,000 college scholarship funds that have been heavily promoted in the lead up.

The day before the event, Farida prepares her brief to the company General Manager who will draw the prizes and make a short speech. She diligently checks off the Terms and Conditions for the draw from the creative in her predecessor’s files. She’s ready to impress.

Drumroll… And the winners are; Lenny Ross, Molly Chen, Olivia Garcia, another Olivia…, (and so on). Congratulations to all! That afternoon, as the competition rules dictate, the names and suburb of the winners are scheduled to be published in the newspaper the following day.

On the morning of publication, Farida gets a phone call she’ll never forget. The client has received an enquiry from a member of the public regarding the selection of the winners. A hopeful entrant, he kept a copy of the competition fine print which stated there would be a winner from one of ten counties. From the newspaper listing, the winners represent only five counties. Oh this was bad, real bad.

How could this happen? Farida accessed an incorrectly labeled file on a desktop with the old fine print.
What happened to all the winners and the money? A re-draw and pay out to all 15 children.
What happened to Farida? Unclear.

Moral of the story:

If your digital assets are not placed in one ‘go to’ cauldron, no hocus pocus will save you from the horrors of version control. A simple Digital Asset Management (DAM) system helps put a stop to marketing chaos through centralization, organization, information, visibility and control. DAM platforms are cloud based content libraries with a ton of grunt that allow you to house your print, video, audio and web creative assets and find what you need fast.

The Conjuring

A global activist grocery brand was gearing up to run a local campaign to raise awareness and funds for homeless women in their country. Templating off what had run in other markets, the PR team set about confirming local partners and working out logistics. Parallel to this, the marketing team briefed the agency creative team who then presented adaptations the marketing team loved. So far so good!

Now within that initial concept was a bold fact about homelessness the Art Director had conjured up and placed in as a positional – you know, to show where the real fact would go once they had it. Throughout the various versioning and creation of other collateral, this astonishing fact that ‘1 in 100 women face homelessness on any given night’, was latched onto by the Marketing Director. While it sounded hard to believe, it wasn’t his wheelhouse and frankly, he was juggling 50 other balls. As it was plastered over everything, it took on a life of its own and became fact. And…well, he ran with it…

The fallout from the callout was brutal. The entire campaign was overshadowed by the media’s shaming of the brand for being loose with the truth and insincere. Not only was it a waste of resources, it damaged the brand, and even worse, raised very little to help the homeless.

Moral of the story:

Approvals should not rest solely on the shoulders of the Marketing Manager and the Creative Director. While Art Directors have no businesses magicking up facts, experts from PR, legal, collab partners and other compliance areas need to be involved at critical points in the workflow. IntelligenceBank Marketing Operations tools and workflows were designed to solve this problem. Controls and approval parameters can be set to put the brakes on rogue intel and catch them way before release.


*Names have been changed to protect the guilty, as they’ve suffered enough.

If these chilling stories haven’t sent you running to find out about your DAM options, here are some more brand fails. You’re welcome.

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