5 Lessons From The Post Mortem of a Marketing Campaign Disaster.
Marketing Ideas & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Sales Tips & Strategic Issues

5 Lessons From The Post Mortem of a Marketing Campaign Disaster.

September 28, 2020

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo

You should always do a post mortem on marketing campaigns. There are always lessons to learn and apply to improve future marketing campaigns.  Sometimes the ones with the greatest lessons are the ones that were a complete flop.

This the post mortem from one I observed – and did NOT approve of – from someone I was working with.  It was not  a “poor” campaign…or even a “bad” campaign….but a disastrous one.  It was however actually a good idea which was well priced and a very suitable service for the target market.  It looked from the start like it would struggle to resonate though for some very good reasons.  But the good idea was launched nevertheless.



ZERO uptake.


In fact, it was worse than that.  Not only was there zero positive response, there was significant negative response.  A “bad” campaign is one which generates more cost than revenue and we lose money…but a disastrous one poisons the soil for the future as well.  We lose money and market credibility and future opportunity.  We suffer brand damage.


This campaign achieved that.


So why did this good idea end so badly?

With the benefit of objectivity and a little experience it seemed pretty obvious that it was never going to work well.  The key reasons:


  • Timing was about as bad as it could be for the target market. The prospects were in their busiest time of the year, where they typically make about 80% of their annual revenue in a 12 week period.  The chances of getting their attention?  Zero.
  • There was no previous brand awareness or existing relationship.  It was an approach from an unknown person.  A cold approach.  That put it in the same category as  the 20 email approaches from website designers and SEO specialists in India that are received weekly, and all the other junk that hits the inbox. Familiarity level? Zero.
  • It was not interesting copy.  A text only email that ran for about half a page, which was difficult to scan quickly as it was in large blocks of writing, with no imagery or headlines…or anything which captured attention easily.  Attention-grabbing level for readers?  Zero.
  • It was a relatively expensive service in real terms.  Actually, the service was well-priced for what it was….but the price tag was such that it required consideration on the part of the business owners – it was not a 30 second “easy buy” decision.  So the immediate perception – if anybody got that far in the reading – was “expensive”.  Perceived value at first glance?  Zero.
  • Degree of Difficulty in following up: Extremely high.  Very few email marketing campaigns will generate a great response on a first touch.  To be effective they usually require some form of follow up…a further email…a call….an information pack in the mail….something!  In this case the first email pretty much killed the chances of a second email being well received.  Calling all of these people on the phone – apart from being incredibly time-consuming – was unlikely to be well received (if indeed personal contact was made at all) given they were in their frantically-making-their-annual-income time. The point is that it didn’t take a lot of thought to comprehend that following up with these people at this time was going to be extremely difficult and qite probably not welcomed.


The person behind this great idea is smart, talented, diligent, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgable.  The service being marketed was good and fairly priced.


Timing sucked.

Style sucked.

Methodology sucked.


Result: his brand sucked.


Whether we successfully sell a product or service in a campaign is nowhere near as important as how well we market our brand…our name and reputation. Getting a good commercial result matters of course, but the residual impression we leave of the brand is more important if we want to leave the door open to do business at some future point as well.



6273124-plus-an-minus-signs-on-green-and-red-buttonsEverything we do in our marketing and brand promotion either enhances the brand position, or detracts from it.


The 5 key lessons for any professional following this Post Mortem Of A Marketing Campaign Disaster are:


1.  A successful campaign is a series of actions, not an isolated incident.  Plan the entire campaign from initial contact through to the ongoing engagement tactics with the vaguely interested.
2.  Understand your target market.  Choosing the wrong times, mediums or offers matters enormously.  Getting these things wrong doesn’t just minimise the effectiveness of the campaign, it can alienate the audience entirely forever as you are clearly demonstrating you do not understand their world at all.  Timing matters:  It is tough to sell ice creams in winter, but it is easy to sell umbrellas then.  But it is easy to sell ice creams in summer… 
3.  Do NOT think short term only.  Everything you do adds to, or subtracts from, your future marketing successes.  Keep the current campaign in context.  You need to make it effective and you need it to make money, but you need the confidence and ongoing support of the target market in the long term way more than you need some dollars from them right now.
4. Action Without Thought Is Reckless Trading.  I use that terminology deliberately to highlight the consequences…”Reckless Trading” in law is one of the BIG no-no’s for the director of any company.   Anyone in charge of a business should not be carrying out activities that are most likely to result in a serious loss for the creditors of the company.  Now; change the word “creditors” to “stakeholders”….taking action for the sake of taking action, without thinking through the consequences, is almost the definition of “recklessness” isn’t it?  Which leads us to the final point…
5. Control yourself.  Think commercially, not emotionally.  Just because you have a great idea or a great service it doesn’t mean it should be promoted right now simply because it is new and exciting for you.  There will be a right audience, and a right time, and a right approach to maximise the commercial outcome.  Work that out, plan for it, be patient.  Control your emotions and enthusiasm.


A good idea is a great idea if the timing is right. A great idea is an awful one if the timing is wrong.


Think about it before hitting the launch button.


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