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“Let’s buy a crappy product” said no one ever.

26 July 2020

“Let’s buy a crappy product” said no one ever. Which brings me to my point. Advertisers have been accused of enticing people to buy inferior products or services. It will only happen once, Caveat emptor ‘Let the buyer beware’ Consumers are savvy and they have long memories. Forbes reported on the Consumer Index study conducted by Sitel which revealed that nearly three-quarters of consumers (74%) said they would stop doing business with a company if they received poor customer support or had a bad experience, and 50% say they already have done so. I’ve always said it’s easy to get the first purchase and to get someone to trial, it’s the repeat purchase that’s critical.

That’s success!

First up let’s examine the relationship between agency and client.

With a background in consulting, old habits die hard. One of the things I pride myself in is to navigate the complete journey - from initial concept and product ideation (a word I despise but suits this narrative), through to implementation, growth and beyond.  A good marketer will visualise the end to end journey, they will challenge the client, the marketing department, the brand manager, the business owner, the production and research teams. In the past I’ve declined projects and gracefully withdrawn because no matter how good the client thinks the brand is, or how well you make the product, or the offer sound and support this with compelling creative and a big budget, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

It may be that the product doesn’t fulfil a need, or it hasn’t been thought through, the production or supply chain is unsustainable or it just doesn't make good marketing sense. I hear people rubbish agencies, marketers and consultants. And to be fair everyone has their own narrative, so it may be the client invested heavily but the expectation wasn’t met. Many new clients will cite that they have been overcharged or had a bad experience with an agency or consultant. However, I argue, if success is achieved, the cost becomes a moot point.  On the flip side unfortunately agency fees are not regulated and if the estimate or the invoice is ambiguous and ultimately the client doesn’t perceive value then yes they will feel like they’ve been ‘ripped off’.

So let’s take a look at some of the more infamous fails - I see a trend.

It’s generally

  1. Product performance

  2. Product taste

  3. The offer doesn’t meet expectations

  4. It’s an over-inflated promise

Traditionally agencies will work from a brief, and so responding to the brief is critical.

Now, here are some epic fails.

Let’s start with the Vegemite-cream cheese blend, iSnack 2.0

The name was chosen as part of a public naming competition but was given a collective thumbs down by consumers. It became the second most talked about topic on Twitter within 24 hours of the announcement, spawned Facebook hate groups, blogs and has prompted a torrent of online abuse since. 

I argue the marketers did their job, everyone was talking about it, awareness peaked - still on shelves today, resurrected as Vegemite Cheesy Bite.

I’m not going to unravel the copious limited edition weird chip flavours we’ve had to endure - (special shout out to chocolate dipped and butter, garlic and scallop) anyway, you get the drift. 

Most are wacky and don’t sell well, thank goodness for ‘limited edition’ which gives them the a*se cover.

Of course technology is not immune to epic failures - take Google Glass for example, it was one of the most hyped products from Google headquarters; millions of people were psyched to try it. Unfortunately, it just didn’t really work out.

Education! Well, a nod to Trump University here for false and misleading advertising - straight up (not surprised!) However, the question is, did the marketing fail? Was it misleading? The agency got a brief and responded but the product didn’t deliver and wasn’t transparent. There is some justice in the world, a final settlement of $25 million was paid to students who claim they were defrauded.

So, who’s to blame?

Is it the client? Is it the product? The message? The creative? Did the agency challenge the client’s brief? Did the client challenge the agency?

What I believe is that agency and client should co-exist; the relationship needs to be collaborative and transparent. So roll up your sleeves and insist on a ‘challenge’ meeting for both sides, because everyone needs to have some skin in the game.

No one likes to fail. So I’ll leave it to you to ponder.

What I do know is when it comes to epic fails, big budgets and over inflated promises most involved will run for cover.

My opinion as always, I value yours, have a great week!


PS: For the marketing nerds out there, click the link here to see 160 epic fails .

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