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Is Your Marketing Tone Deaf?
02 Jan 2017

Is Your Marketing Tone Deaf?

I decided to spend all of Christmas weekend flat on my back with the flu. Don’t ask me how I come up with such fun ideas. It’s a natural gift that I could never explain. Since I could neither sleep nor move, I watched/listened to a lot of television and was exposed to a plethora of advertisements. One of these oft-repeated ads hit me the wrong way, however.

The ad was for Pür Water Filtration Systems. Maybe you’ve seen the commercial. A guy is standing behind a table with a lot of samples of water from different places. In front of him stand a small gaggle of people, and as they grab something to drink he tells them that the water in front of them has the acceptable, safe amount of lead. They hesitate. Lead? They don’t want to drink water with any lead. That’s horrible!

Every time I saw this ad, all I could think about were the people living in Flint, Michigan. They STILL do not have safe water by any standards. Maybe the folks in Flint aren’t on a lot of minds as people are watching television, but that’s part of the problem, right? There are people in the most powerful country in the world who haven’t had access to safe drinking water since 2014 (you can read more about that here). To me, the ad was saying, “Goodness, though of us who have acceptable levels of lead in our water need it to be perfect.” It struck me as tone deaf in light of what is happening in Flint.

How Can You Avoid The Cringe Factor?

Let’s face it, it is extremely easy to rub people the wrong way these days. I saw an argument on Facebook recently about whether or not people were attacking each other. Seriously. Marketers do need to be aware of current events, however, to make sure that there isn’t a misstep. Avoiding faux pas where major current events are concerned should be a top priority, as in the Pür case. Another example of a brand missing the mark was Nike back during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. Shortly after the trial started, I saw this ad in a magazine:

The Nike marketing team most certainly should have known that this was a serious misstep. Everybody knew about Oscar Pistorius when that story first broke, after all.

How do you avoid these mistakes? Here are some suggestions.

• Keep track of current events related to your brand and your products. Anything having to do with water should be on the Pür radar. A spokesman being arrested for murder is probably something Nike should have remembered at the time.

• Be in touch with your customers. Listen with this newfangled social media technology we have now. They will tell you what issues are important to them and how they feel about said issues.

• Know where and when your ads are going to run. You can’t always know what will be happening in the world if you’re placing space a month or more in advance, but you should know immediately where all of your ads are running.

• Have a plan. I know, we offer that advice for every scenario. Well, there’s a reason for that. If you need to suddenly pull an ad because of a major world event, know who is going to do that, how they’re going to let everyone know it was done, and more.

Has your company ever found itself running an ad that rubbed people the wrong way? What did you do? We’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: via Creative Commons

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