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Picking up the pieces of a failed campaign

Pepsi recently released an advertising campaign that completely flopped. Maybe you heard of it…the ad featured a protest scene where one woman crosses over to the police line and shares a Pepsi and a smile with a hard working officer. According to the company, the ad was trying to promote “a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” But instead of this message, people reacted poorly saying it trivialized the real issues of protests and violence happening around the world today. The ad left many wondering what the marketing teams at Pepsi were thinking.

Have you ever found yourself in Pepsi’s shoes? Of course we don’t all have the social or brand presence of Pepsi, and our failures may be on a much smaller stage. But a marketing failure can cause you to pause and wonder – what were you thinking?!

Following such a blunder, it is your next steps that will put you back on the path to success. Some call this process a post-mortem review, but I prefer to call it learning from my mistakes. To start the learning, review every piece of your campaign for errors or issues – did you miss something?

marketing failure


Missed messaging or positioning can cause campaign failure. Just like the Pepsi blunder, messaging can be interpreted many different ways. Reflect on your messaging and analyze it for different interpretations. To get ahead of a messaging-caused crash, try having others outside of marketing review copy prior to launch. Create an internal focus group to discuss different interpretations or questions that could be caused by confusing language.


If your campaign did not meet expectations, go back to your list and ensure your selections were accurate. Revisit your audience selections and make sure your messaging matched up as intended. A list is an easy place to make a fatal error; ensure you have proper reviews and quality sign offs in place prior to campaign launch to avoid future issues.

Final Product

If both your messaging and your list seem to be on point, review the final distributed product. Seed yourself into the mail file of every campaign – this way you will receive the same mail piece or email as your list. Make sure you received what you were supposed to. Check components, colors, offers, personalization etc. Did your vendor make an error? This could cause a reduction in response.

Game Plan

After you’ve considered where your campaign may have gone awry, you will need to formulate a game plan for moving forward. How will you do better next time? Even though the campaign failed in your eyes, were there any learnings that could be gained from it? Assess the positives of the campaign and use them to build the strategy for your next try.

ROI Analysis

Hopefully done prior to the campaign, the planned ROI should be assessed. A new baseline may be needed for future campaigns. Assumptions made will likely be incorrect and will need to be adjusted based on response or type of consumer that responded. Impress the finance team and do this prior to the discussion they will likely have with you once they see the campaign outcome.

Remember, marketing is a science, and like a scientist’s failed experiment, a marketer can have a failed campaign now and again as well. The key is what you do with the information you learned from the attempt. Pick your head up, learn from it and move on to the next experiment. At B2E, we offer ROI Analysis and Strategy Development for marketers. Let us know if you would like to discuss a project.

Always Marketing,


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