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21/08/2013 by

Content Marketing: Why Turkeys Can’t Fly?

Are you involved in content marketing and still think that turkeys can fly? I suggest you read along.

Content Marketing: Why Turkeys Can't Fly?

In a memorable episode of the TV sit-com “WKRP in Cincinnati,” station manager Mr. Carlson scheduled an elaborate Thanksgiving promotion, which involved dropping live turkeys from a helicopter into a local shopping center parking lot.

At the end of the show, the frazzled Mr. Carlson staggered into the office, looked at his staff and said “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!

While the plot was loosely based on an annual tradition in a small Arkansas town, where for many years turkeys were dropped from low-flying planes (reportedly, no turkeys were hurt or killed), the WKRP episode also underlined a crucial lesson for all business owners – never embark on a promotional campaign without carefully researching every aspect of the plan.

Always do your research and think how it will work, what could go wrong and, of course, how your target audience will respond.

Content Marketing: Why Turkeys Can’t Fly

Memorable ad campaigns can go a long way to making even small businesses recognizable brands. But don’t believe everything you hear – not all publicity is good publicity.

Even a small miscalculation can have several negative ramifications both for the campaign itself as well for your company.

Content marketing: why turkeys can't fly

The concepts and lessons to be learned apply to all businesses. Take for example, the great Snapple snafu of 2005. The company executives decided to make a giant popsicle frozen Snapple and put it in Times Square, New York City.

The 25-foot tall, 17.5 ton frozen edifice was to be the largest popsicle ever made, thus firmly placing Snapple as a company people could associate with greatness.

BUT….somebody really didn’t think things through. They planned the stunt for one day in the month of June, when the average temperature is 81 degrees. What happened was to be expected, of course – 17.5 tons of frozen Snapple melted, flooding parts of downtown Manhattan.

The fire department was called in to hose down the mess, and the streets they had to close off did nothing to ease the normally unbearable traffic that the Big Apple is known and despised for.

There are also several examples of companies that, in their quest to go international, failed to fully grasp cultural sensitivities, or even basic translation, resulting in hilarious, yet disastrous business results.

For example, when Coors beer exported their “Turn it loose!” ad campaign to the Spanish-speaking world, proper market research would have alerted the company execs that in Spanish, ‘turn it loose’ is a reference to having diarrhea.

According to an urban legend (not confirmed by Snopes, but not ruled out, either), Pepsi’s “Bring you back to life” campaigned flopped in China when the slogan was translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave!”

Urban fact was Clairol’s “mist stick” campaign in Germany, which flopped as they did not realize that the German word for mist can also be translated as manure. Oops!

The list of mistranslated campaign slogans is seemingly never-ending, but the point is clear – proper marketing requires proper research (and a good dictionary).

One more note on the language barrier comes from the Scandinavian company, Electrolux. I am sure that their marketing team were congratulating themselves on the play of words except that…well, ’nuff said.

Content marketing: why turkeys can't fly

Other ad campaigns gone awry are those that stereotype segments of the population – based on race, religion or gender.

For example, Ragu Spaghetti Sauce’s campaign featuring women talking about the inability of men to cook was every bit as offensive to men as Dr. Pepper’s marketing push for its soda’s, “10 manly calories – It’s not for women,” was to women.

Rule of thumb – targeting a specific audience is fine, if that’s what your product or service is about, but never by denigrating the non-targeted population.

Dr Pepper

Last, but not least, there is the common sense of taboo topics and phrases that one need not have an advanced degree in business marketing to know to avoid.

The automobile manufacturer Renault, in an effort to convey their message to British clients, announced that their salesmen would not say ‘No’ to any offer.

Except that the ad said “For 10 days, we can’t use the ‘N’ word.” Can it really be that nobody in Renault’s British upper management team understood the connotation of “the ‘N’ word”?

The list goes on and on – ads that make overtly sexual references, imply drug use or simply demonstrate a complete disconnect from social norms, could fill up a series of articles.

Large corporations can usually overcome these disasters with time because they have the money and resources to try again and quickly.

Small businesses, on the other hand, are working with a much slimmer margin of error.

A poorly thought-out or executed campaign can not only cost you money and customers, but can damage your company’s name and reputation in the long-run.

A crucial factor in the success of a small business is that it be seen as a legitimate enterprise that has integrity.

My Opinion?
The bottom line? Every ad that you run for your business is a reflection on the company itself.

So check them carefully, then re-check for anything and everything. Might anyone be offended? Might the wording be taken the wrong way?

Is this the message what we really wish to convey? Did we spell everything correctly? Any of these questions – if not fully thought through – can torpedo an ad campaign, and ultimately, your entire business.

What About You?
What shocking examples are top of mind? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author
Sam Brandes is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business author. FastUpFront specializes in alternative financing for small business. Visit our website.


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Comments (2)

  • Laurens Bianchi
    21/08/2013, 16:20

    I believe The American Dairy Association once translated their successful campaign ‘Got Milk’ literately into Spanish for the Mexico market… only ‘Got Milk’ in Mexico means: ‘Are You Lactating?’

    Oops :-)

  • fastupfront fastupfront
    22/08/2013, 07:37

    That’s classic! Thank you for sharing. I will ask my brother-in-law if it’s true :)