Why your advert could make your business a laughing stock

Michael Burke, the author, has over 10 years of experience working in the Internet sector

Michael Burke

Web & Mobile Expert, Technical Director of Emerald Creative

Unusually we have been blessed with two glaring marketing mistakes from two high profile companies recently. Using the hashtag #HappyWomensDay Bic released what turned out to be a very sexist advert for their business, and today when promoting the inclusion of more Vitamin D in their Bread, Marks & Spencer succeeded in creating an advert for a double entendre that the internet has jumped upon.

While the Marks & Spencer advert faux pas can be seen as funny, the Bic advert obviously can't and the backlash couldn't be more different between the two companies. However, their mistakes can easily be repeated by other businesses like yours, and in this article I'm going to go through the two adverts, what they did wrong, and the response they have both received from the internet at large.

Think Like A Human - Bic South Africa Obviously Didn't

So on 11th August 2015, Bic South Africa decided to release an image and promoted it under the hashtag #HappyWomensDay. It was shared thousands of times, favourited, and they received numerous replies from people all over the world on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

So far so good? Well no. The message Bic South Africa decided to go with was "Look like a girl, Act like a lady, Think like a man, Work like a boss". You can see where Bic South Africa were going with it. The Internet is full of motivational imagery with a slogan or quote that is effectively click bait or share bait. The intention was for someone to see the image, be impressed with it or agree with the sentiment, then share it with that person's network.

However, it's obviously clear that while people did share the image and promote it on their social networks, it was for all the wrong reasons. The slogan used is demeaning and condescending to women as well as being incredibly cringe worthy. It served nothing more than to be turned against Bic South Africa and to devastating effect. Out of nowhere people had taken the original Bic image and turned them in to protests against the original image.

But ultimately, this advert has done more to damage the reputation of Bic amongst people who found their advert offensive - and rightly so.

What About Putting Something Unsavoury in Bread?

While the Bic advert was highly offensive, some adverts attract attention for different reasons, but it doesn't make the reaction any better. Marks & Spencer found that out this week when they released marketing collateral celebrating the fact that their bread comes with vitamin D. However the way it was written along with the slogan used gave a different impression to anyone who saw the advert.

Yes, Marks & Spencer have unwittingly referenced a specific part fo the male anatomy.

This cock up (excuse the pun, I'm really sorry) is on the other end of the scale when compared to the Bic advert, but the effect is the same. While both got users of the internet talking about the adverts and the companies behind them, the subject of the conversations were negative. Bic are seen to be sexist, while the fact Marks & Spencer made a sexual reference when selling bread has overtaken what their bread now contains.

The fact is if you're the owner of a small or medium business you can't afford to make mistakes like Bic and Marks & Spencer have. You usually have one chance with a prospective client, especially if they have no idea of your reputation before they see your marketing.

It's surprising that a lot of businesses won't pay much attention to how their brand, their message, and what they're actually trying to sell through an advert. We have all seen these sorts of adverts, where their logo is pixelated and it's full of spelling and grammatical errors. And I bet it's highly unlikely you'll have done business with them based on their advert. So why should a client do business with you if your advert is poor?

What To Remember When Making An Advert For Your Business

Luckily for you I have 4 top tips to help you make an advert for your business that will help you avoid putting across a poor impression to potential clients. These points can be applied to online and print marketing, as these tips go right back to the dawn of time in terms of the marketing world.

1) KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid

Some people when I have told them this acronym and what it stood for were first offended by it, but once they saw it for what it was they realised it was a clever way to remember something very simple. If you don't keep your message simple it will only get lost on the potential client. You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of a passer by, so making your message simple means that you give your advert a better chance of grabbing and retaining that persons attention.

2) Spell Check, Spell Check, Spell Check

I have seen so many adverts on the internet and in print media that will contain a misspelt word, and it immediately puts me off. Put yourself in your audience's shoes. They are looking for someone with good attention to detail, but if they're advert contains a minor spelling mistake what will they be like when they do work for you? Further to this, mistaking "there" for "their" can change the whole meaning of a sentence, so if you can get a few people to read over your advert just to make sure you avoid these mistakes.

3) Make It Hard To Ignore

It was once said that the most effective form of advertising is to have white writing on a black background. While it still holds relevance these days you need to be far more creative with the colours you use for your advert. Using vivid bright colours that attract the eye will mean that your audience will be hard pressed to ignore it. However, be careful with the combination of colours that you use as any text on the advert could be hard to read against the colour or colours you've chosen.

4) Provide Credibility

Research has proven that people tend to purchase products or services based on recommendations or testimonials that they see for it. If you're a personal trainer, you will want to include a testimonial from a client praising your services. When potential clients see this it reinforces your message that you provide the best service available in your particular field, meaning they are more likely to do business with you.

With these four simple steps forming the foundation of your next advert, you'll soon notice a difference in how potential clients engage with your business. However, if you do just take away one thing from this article, let it be this: The one critical thing that can put off a potential client will be a lack of attention to detail. A sloppy advert can indicate sloppy work, and no client wants that.

Posted in Business, Marketing on 20th August 2015


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