Marketers, forgive thyselves

Robin Emiliani  /  Sep 19, 2019

I set out to buy a damn sweater.

You know the one. That cute, fuzzy, warm, snuggly fall cardigan that one of those bloggers was wearing. It looked cute. Damn cute. And, of course, she convinced me that I must have it.

(Because obviously we all look as good as influencers when we buy the things they’re peddling, am I right? I mean, ignoring the fact that getting that perfect influencer product photo often takes days of planning. But I digress.)

In a stroke of luck, said sweater just so happened to be on sale at a major retailer, and it felt like I was getting the deal of the century. I could just picture myself cozied up in it on the couch, watching a football game with a bowl of chili and the comfortable righteousness of a woman who’d saved 50%.

I went to the website, added the sweater to my cart, and went to check out…and the website crashed. And I don’t just mean crashed like I had to do my order over. I mean legit crashed. For a long time. In fact, the last time I checked, the site was still down.

And hey, maybe that was divine intervention. The universe telling me I don’t need yet another damn sweater. (But oh, need is such a subjective word and cozying up on the couch with that chili is such a compelling image…)

More likely, the crash was a development team having a bad day. Or a hacker who’d successfully sabotaged so many hours of marketing effort. Or a data center outage.

Whatever the cause, I’m sure the marketers over at that retailer are having an epically bad day. Scambling for fixes. Scambling for answers. How many sales did we lose? How many customers did we alienate? Who launched the bad code? Who left the door open for the hacker? How did we let this happen?

But here’s the thing: my enduring need for cozy sweater time on the couch notwithstanding, every marketing team has bad days.

We’ve had a few here at Catalyst, for sure. Days when shit just didn’t go our way—no matter how hard we tried. Sometimes you don’t get it right with a client. Sometimes not getting it right happens more than once on the same day. Sometimes it’s outside your control. Sometimes it isn’t. The best marketers I know have all had those days.

In case that’s the kind of day (or week) you’re having, maybe it’ll make you feel a little better to know that you are so very not alone. And your bad day probably isn’t as terrible as you think.

At least not when you compare it to the bad days of others. Like that time Apple lost $25 million because of an app store outage in 2015. Or when a five-hour computer outage cost Delta Airlines $150 million in 2016. Or when Facebook went down earlier this year and experts estimate their loss was probably around $90 million.

(That time you sent an email out with the wrong event date is seeming pretty tame right now, isn’t it?)

The point here is this: Like with anything in life, the important thing is how you deal with it. Because so far, no one has invented the time machine that’ll let us go back and change the date on that email, come up with a better password that will keep out the hacker, or un-delete that article you worked so hard on and now have to re-write.

So the only thing to do is move forward. Forgive ourselves. Analyze what happened and vow to never do it again. Figure out how to brush ourselves off and do a better job next time.

Because a mistake is rarely a death sentence for your brand. Apple’s still here after learning a $25-million lesson. Facebook is still here after losing $90 million. Even brands that seemed to be on their way out have come back from bad marketing and product decisions.

And some of those comeback brands? They’ve not only come back. They’ve thrived. Lego was going under until it started doing more customer research to find out what kids wanted. Today, the brand is going strong. Starbucks closed 900 stores in the late 2000s, but a strong campaign brought them back in force. Today, they’re the largest coffee chain in the world.

The point? That retailer may have lost my sweater sale (or maybe not, because football and chili), but that doesn’t mean they can’t bounce back from an outage. It doesn’t mean the next compelling campaign or clever offer will meet the same end. And it definitely doesn’t mean marketers should beat themselves up.

Every failure is simply a chance to move forward.

(And if you need help moving forward from a faux pas or outage? Supporting marketers is what we do best. Get in touch.)


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