Posted by David Oates 3 years, 2 months ago

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When a marketing plan doesn't take off, there are often multiple reasons for it. It could be a number of things. Maybe the messaging wasn't tight or the call to action unclear. Perhaps the avenues to convey the key points weren't targeted well enough for the intended audience. It might be that the campaign was ill timed and got drowned out by other events.

Or maybe - just maybe - the business plan was the culprit.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to deflect blame here. In some cases, though, the reason that a marketing campaign didn't take off was because the product was either not ready for prime time or not compelling in the first place. There have been some high profile examples over the years; from Google Glass of today's era to the New Coke fiasco of the 1980s to the Ford Edsel stall of the late 1950s. The reason these products failed wasn't because the marekting initatives didn't cut it. Rather, the offerings weren't good from the start, and no campaign can save a bad product.

Startups have a similar problem, but often for different reasons. For many new entrants, a marketing campaign may not work so well because their offerings, while compelling on paper, are too new and as yet untested to receive mass interest. Many entrepreneurs think that a good PR or social media push will make their product an overnight success. That is rarely the case any more. Early adopters are the ones who will make or break an upstart by trying out the new offering, loving it, and teling their friends without the prodding of a slick traditional or online campaign. Public validation is vital and must be leveraged in subsequent marketing initiatives to give any campaign a chance at generating significant buzz.

I'm by no means suggesting marketers should not be held accountable for bad initiatives. We've seen our share; most recently the Malaysian Airlines "Bucket List" campaign launched not long after two of their airplane flights ended in epic disaster. What I am suggesting, though, is that marketing isn't always the reason for why something didn't meet expectations. When a campaign fails, executives should put all possibilities on the table. 

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