5 Marketing Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

I got this postcard in one of those marketing packs in the mail the other day. Normally, it’s smart marketing because it allows participating companies to share costs and reach more prospects than they could on their own. In this case, it was a bad marketing example, not a good  one.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I admit I often toss these, but this time I opened it because I was looking for airport shuttle vouchers for visiting friends. There weren’t any car vouchers, but I did find one postcard that stopped me in my tracks. It was from a local gym, offering a special three day guest pass and summer sale.


I don’t need a gym. Who needs a Stairmaster when you have actual stairs (56 of them, I counted).

1. Poor project management

Have a process in place for checking that the list, the card, and the mailing are right. It’s easier (and cheaper) to stop it before it goes out.   Long ago, I came within an inch of sending out a big mailing with the wrong price.  Taking everything out of the envelopes and reprinting was an expensive pain in the neck, but it would have been worse if the mailing had gone out the door.

2. Paying no attention to timing

Summer sale??!

It’s January. I’m in the northern hemisphere and it’s 29F (-1.6C) outside. 18F and -7.7C with the wind chill. I’m not going to be putting on a bathing suit any time soon!

Promoting a summer sale in winter makes you look foolish. Also, allow for holidays, delivery time, etc. Getting a coupon for a 30% discount four days after the sale is over is pretty frustrating.

3. Spraying and praying

Don’t close your eyes and spatter your marketing message everywhere, hoping to hit something. I don’t need a gym, but people on lower floors or in elevator buildings might. Maybe if they teamed up with Weight Watchers? Or maternity wards (helping new moms get back into shape)?

4. Sending something nobody wants

Did you hear the story about the hospital offering free coffee with colonoscopy? Yuck! Instead, offer something that’s appealing to your particular audience. How about a coupon for a free neck massage? That might get me in the door.

5. Choosing a poor list

The key to successful marketing is not the graphics, not the copy, not the offer (though those do count), but the list. Your chimney sweeping service may rock, but it’s no good to people without chimneys.

What are some of the worst marketing mistakes you’ve seen? Add them in the comments.

2 thoughts on “5 Marketing Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

  1. I do love the “free coffee with the colonoscopy” offer. That jibes well with my own thought of offering free gloves to people who have just had their feet amputated. Useful (and yet sensitive), no?

    You remind me of the radio ad I recently heard, on New Year’s Day, offering dinner and dancing on New Year’s Eve—duh. Context-sensitive promotions do work a mite better…

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