How a Marketing Mishap Turned into 150K
Back in the day (aka BSM - Before Social Media), Direct Mail pieces were "the" way to reach your target audience. While not as popular as they once were, these campaigns can still be an effective marketing vehicle for many industries.
Several years ago I was a Regional Account Manager for a consulting firm in the petroleum industry. We were trying to expand our lucrative brokerage department which assisted distributors in selling their businesses.
With the help of a creative consultant, we arrived at what we thought was a clever campaign based on a catchy advertisement for an over the counter pain reliever:
If Selling Your Business is Keeping You Up at Night -
Take Two Aspirin and Call Us in the Morning.
Included with our one page letter was a small package of Tylenol (I'm pretty sure we sent this instead of aspirin because it was cheaper at Costco).
A few days after out initial mailing I received a call from a business owner in the Pacific Northwest:
“Suzanne, are you trying to kill me?”
Well, this was not quite the response I was hoping for.
Apparently our cute little packages of Tylenol were pulverized during the United Postal Service mail handling process. Our unsuspecting clients received not a cure for a headache - but rather a suspicious white powder.
Around this same time, packages with a mysterious substance (i.e. Anthrax), were showing up at various office buildings and media outlets around the country. It was all over the news and this was a tense time for many businesses.
Of course, now the headache was OURS. Fortunately, petroleum distributors are generally the most easy going and good hearted people in the world and most of our clients thought the situation was hilarious. No one turned us in.
My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked - #6:
The client who called retained our services resulting in a $150K commission.
The Moral of This Story
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously, we could possibly have been arrested for this campaign. But you know what? Frankly, we would have received a lot of press and exposure if this had happened. Many businesses avoid trying something new because it might fail. Or they are waiting for their branding to be “perfect.” Or they are afraid their campaign might be too "different." The list goes on an on.
Friends, we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes your efforts might fail, but more often than not something good will come out of it. Even global operations with billion dollar budgets will make a miscalculation from time to time in their strategies. The time is NOW to try new things, and with social media and other tools it has never been more important to be creative in order for your product or service to "stand out." As Nike says so brilliantly: "Just do it."
May the Marketing Gods be with you.