Marketing Horror Stories

Modern Marketing


If clowns or ghost stories get your heart racing with fear, then you haven’t experienced the panic that ensues when marketing goes wrong. Here are real life marketing horror stories and some suggestions about how to overcome them. Warning: These may be scarier than a haunted house, so proceed with caution.

Happy Halloween everybody, and enjoy!

Horror Story 1: The Email Nightmare

Nothing is worse than getting an email from your boss at 3:00 a.m. in the morning telling you that an email can no longer go out because some of the information it contains has changed. This is actually a personal horror story, and the reason I slightly panicked (read: freaked out like a crazed banshee) was because I had scheduled the email to launch at 7:00 a.m., but when I read my bosses email, it was already 8:00 a.m.

What can you do when you’re trapped in this type of nightmare? First, and this should come before an issue arises, make sure you include other people on your emails. If you’re lucky, someone will read your bosses email before you and will un-schedule the email. Don’t have all responsibility fall on one person. In my case, my other coworker was awake and was able to reschedule the email. The second thing you can do is communicate with your team and decide that urgent items get texted or prompt a phone call because time can pass before email gets read. And finally, send your emails around for review with plenty of time to receive and incorporate feedback.

Horror Story 2: The Disappearing Speaker

A week before a virtual event, one of our speakers was unable to make it. Of course, it had to happen a week before, but things like that sometimes happen.

How do you handle this last minute change? Scream in horror! Freak out for five minutes! That’s totally acceptable, but don’t let fear overtake you. First, create a task team to secure an additional speaker. Brainstorm a list of ideal speaker replacements and develop a plan that includes alternative speakers. You always have the option to have an employee speak, or you can always speak! Worst-case scenario, you will have to cancel the session and will have one less session. If communications have already gone out about this speaker and it is expected to be a popular session, be proactive and send attendees an apology email, with (hopefully)alternative speaker details.

Horror Story 3: The International Fiasco

One horror story, I heard from a customer, is about an email originally intended just for Japan that was accidentally sent to the entire database.

The panic of realizing this mistake could be overwhelming, but don’t let it overcome you. Mistakes happen, and the best thing you can do is own the mistake and email the people who mistakenly received the email. Based on your audience, humor can be a wonderful way to make light of the situation. Nothing fights fear better than laughter. The worst thing you can do let the fear overwhelm you and avoid the issue. For quality assurance, create approved segmentation lists that are consistent for everyone on your team. This mitigates the mistake of creating your own, faulty, segmentation lists. Another important thing to have is a quality assurance process where a team member reviews your work to make sure everything has been done properly.

Tell us about your marketing horror stories and how you rebounded from them. I would love to hear them!