What Was Your Biggest Marketing Mistake?

To err is human, but some mistakes are costlier than others. Take, for example, the 2007 Cartoon Network marketing stunt that cost the company $2 million and the CEO his job. In that fiasco, the company placed blinking electronics throughout the city of Boston to promote a cartoon. Unfortunately, many citizens mistook the devices as explosives, inundating emergency response teams with 911 calls.

What Was Your Biggest Marketing Mistake? image mistakeWhat Was Your Biggest Marketing Mistake?

Your marketing snafus might not be mistaken for terrorist threats, but no marketer who has been in the business for any appreciable amount of time can deny a few mistakes along the way – and many of you probably have the “big one” – the mistake that taught you a hard lesson. You know the one: it’s the mistake you’ll never repeat, the one that makes you careful to avoid other mistakes.

Mine came in the dawn of a new century. A friend of mine and I had decided to start a small hometown newspaper to compete with the local status quo: a publication that had been purchased by a major corporation and featured little more than AP news off the wire, and a sprinkling of what ads they could sell in between. We knew we could deliver a better product, both to readers and advertisers, and after months of planning we launched.

And lost our proverbial behinds.

You see, our content was outstanding. That I stand by, and our readership agreed. Our distribution was likewise outstanding: We covered 90 percent of the local population. And, we were able to attract some of the most prominent local business advertisers. We were on a roll… so we thought. However, the rising costs of newspaper printing and distribution, combined with a faltering economy that sucked up ad dollars, doomed our small publication. Even though we had plenty of enthusiastic subscribers, we didn’t have enough revenue to justify keeping the newspaper alive.

In retrospect, if we had launched entirely online we would have cut out our two largest expenses and still would have been able to sell ample advertising to support the publication. My marketing mistake was to not fully understand the market and anticipate the future, preferring to stick with tradition. If we had conducted better research and been more progressive, that tiny publication would likely be a popular local website today.

I’m thankful that I learned that lesson at a relatively early stage in my business career. Often, making mistakes prove to be the best lessons of all. As long as we can minimize the damage and learn to not repeat our mistakes, we can be better at what we do.

Now, it’s your turn. Join the discussion. What was your biggest marketing mistake, what was the fallout, and how did you overcome it?

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