Dangerous Marketing

Marketing is a tricky business, and one wrong move can set you back twice as far as a good campaign can move you forward. We recently posted an article entitled “Windows has left the building!”, talking about an ill-conceived marketing tag-line that appeared at the Microsoft website. The reason this caught our eye wasn’t just a chance to laugh at Microsoft. We happen to like Microsoft a LOT over here at Ilium Software. Instead, it was a chance to see how even a company like Microsoft, with all of its resources, can miss something simple and end up hurt by it.

First impressions are a huge part of marketing. It isn’t about what the customer thinks after they’ve taken time to dig into your message and really understand it. The sad reality is that most customers never bother. Rather, it is the immediate, visceral response your message generates.

Using the “Windows has left the building!” tag-line as an example, the phrase is (obviously for many folks) based off the famous “Elvis has left the building!” line. Using a well known and familiar line and tweaking it is a great way to strike a familiar chord in your audience. Unfortunately, the original line was about the King leaving the stage. The show was over. Everyone could go home. It wasn’t about Elvis hitting the street to do a show for the crowd out there. He was done. Finis.

So, when Microsoft uses this line they are accidentally saying, “Show’s over folks! The King is done and has left the stage!” Someone at the Microsoft PR firm deserves a swift kick for this snafu. I mean yeah, when you think it through you can figure out what they mean, but unfortunately by then it is too late. They’ve made their impression.

I’ll leave you with a great, simple example of this that I learned in a fantastic marketing class at University of Michigan. A professor said, “Unless you are an exterminator, never get a flyswatter with your company name on it. Having your product directly associated with bug guts does not create a positive impression in the minds of the customer.”

3 thoughts on “Dangerous Marketing

  1. Kevin White

    I used to work for the University of Michigan “Residential Computing” department (which was rolled into ‘Housing Information Technology Office’, aka HITO, which is also the japanese word for ‘people’ or something like that, or I’m lying.)

    One of their security promotions involved giving out RESCOMP-branded condoms. You know, “protect yourself, protect your PC.”

    I think the promotion was axed, but not after they actually delivered the condoms to the staff, or something. (It happened right before I started working for them so I don’t know the full details.)

    Condoms are good, because they protect you from diseases, but giving out condoms to college students was apparently seen as promoting activities that require condoms, which some people think is bad. Unless you’re the University Health Service.

  2. Marc Post author

    When you are making a marketing plan you spend a lot of time trying to balance it. In addition, a fair amount is just having the right feel for it an making guesswork. In the end though you can end up screwing things up pretty bad.

    That said, watch the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark and you have a great analogy for a person trying to come up with a good marketing campaign.

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