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Avoiding Marketing Mistakes
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January 2011
ADM logoNew Year, New Plans

Happy New Year! This is a time when companies as well as individuals evaluate their activities over the past 12 months and think about moving ahead in the next 12 months. So if you are thinking about the launch of a new product or communications campaign, or thinking about re-branding or moving into a new market, I hope you'll include research in your plans.

I must add an apology and a shout-out to Daniel Johnson Ederra, who authored last month's article on multi-cultural marketing. While I mentioned his name at the bottom of the article, I did not make it clear that he wrote it. So thank you to Daniel, and if you would like to be a guest contributor, please let me know.

Avoiding Marketing Mistakes
Investing in Research Can Pay Off Big TimeKardasian Kard 

Fortune magazine and recently came out with "The 19 Dumbest Moments In Business" for 2010. Some of these were well publicized (e.g., Tony Haward) and others were not. What I noticed was that nine of these blunders involved some kind of marketing or brand introductions that were ill-conceived or mismanaged. Here they are:
  • Kardashian Kard (this is my favorite!), a high end debit card, featuring the eponymous sisters, was launched November 9th and pulled 17 days later after (then) CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal registered strong complaints over the high fees and costs.
  • IPhone 4, with its problematic antenna. Steve Jobs didn't make things better by being dismissive about complaints.
  • The Gap introduced a new logo and went back to the original one 7 days later (shades of New Coke?)
  • Microsoft KIN, which cost $1 Billion to create and launch, lasted a mere 6 weeks on the market.
  • Google Buzz, which had such monumental privacy flaws that it generated a $8.5 Million law suit.
  • Google TV, which was so klunky ("Who would want to watch tv with a keyboard on his lap?") that it barely made it to market--but you have to give the Big G props for trying!
  • Chevy, one of the most iconic American automobile brands ever, ordered its employees to cease using this abbreviated version of Chevrolet, on pain of a token fine. The e-mail hit social media and the company backed off.
  • NBC's late night debacle, firing Conan O'Brien (whose cutting edge humor appeals to a younger audience) and bringing back Leno, who not only failed at 10pm, but whose aging audience can barely stay up that late!
  • Finally, another entertainment product, TLC's 8-part series on "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which started off with poor ratings, and went south from there.

In all probability, some of these companies actually conducted research around these introductions and changes, but if so, they didn't use appropriate methods, or they didn't do enough. Perhaps they conducted a few focus groups, but no quantitative research. Focus groups are great for refining details about marketing activities, but not so advisable for a go/no go product launch decision--especially when millions were spent on development!


In some cases, the wrong demographic may have been tapped. Take the NBC case; they may have looked at ratings, and after several weeks decided it wasn't moving up as fast as they wanted. A round of research (even groups!) might have shown the potential among a younger demographic and led to a different decision. On the other hand, focus groups among an older demographic might have fed the "kill" decision. The Kardashian Kard may have appealed to a young female crowd, but, typically they would not be able to afford the high fees and charges. Those who might have been willing and able to affort it might not even know who the K girls are!


New product development and tweaking of brands are important for a company's forward movement. But beware of the "brilliant idea" that may be high concept, but questionable on market acceptance. You will save yourself a boatload of money, embarassment, and reputation by retaining a consultant who can look at it impartially and recommend appropriate research. The investment will be well worth it.

Networking Strategically

Targeting for Success


We all get invitations to lots of networking events, association meetings, and workshops. You could probably go to some meeting or other every day and night of the week. But then, when would you work? Just as any company has to know who its target audience is, in order to craft appropriate communications, marketing programs, and offers, we must strategize networking for the same reasons. 


If you are a social person, as I am, it is very tempting to accept all reasonable and convenient offers. However, it is wiser to take a hard look at the potential opportunity. Here are a few questions to ask yourself (by no means the only ones).

  • Are the people who are likely to be at the event good referral sources for you? Can they introduce you to people who buy what you are selling?
  • Are they colleagues from whom you can learn or even partner with?
  • Is the group industry focused or focused on a certain discipline, or is it a general business group? And should you concentrate on one type or mix it up?
  • Does the group and its participants match your geographical reach? Are they strictly local, while you do business anywhere?
  • Are the participants senior executives, juniors, or entrepreneurs and consultants? Which of these categories present the best opportunities for you?
  • Is the program or speaker an opportunity for you to learn something that will be useful, either in the near term or longer term?
  • Are you tempted to go, but it will involve a long commute, or it is at an inconvenient time?

For sure, there are other questions, but this is a start. Full disclosure--I must go through this process myself, and it is not easy. However, nobody's resources are limitless, so pick and choose carefully! Of one thing I am certain: networking is essential for everyone. Good luck choosing!

Upcoming Events
January 19, 11:30am-1:30pm

The International Association of Business Communicators, Long Island is starting the new year at a new venue--Viana Hotel and Spa, on Brush Hollow Road in Westbury, which is convenient to 3 highways and Jericho Turnpike. This month's program, sponsored by BusinessWire, features Brian Reich of "little m media" and a consultant to Sobel Media, speaking about "How to Plan For Organizational Success In The Digital Age." Brian will give us tips on how to plan for successful communications, mobilization, and organizational effectiveness in this ever-changing digital age. Register at or
January 18, 8-10am
SMPS-LI is presenting "Transit Oriented Development" at  Westbury Manor, Jericho Turnpike, just East of Glen Cove Road. Panelists represent the Long Island Railroad, NYS Office of Smart Growth, Renaissance Downtowns, and Vision Long Island. Go to for more information, and to register.  
January 11, 6:30-8:30pm
Sobel Media is presenting "JFK50: Where the Future Began" at Samsung Experience, Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle, NY. The event will benefit the JFK Memorial Library Foundation, and costs $20. Go to for more information and registration.
January 19, 8-10am
New York Women In Communications, Inc. (WICI) is presenting "Digital Salon: Your PR Toolkit" at Microsoft Technology Center, 1290 Avenue of the Americas (bet 51st and 52nd St) in New York City. Go to to register.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman