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Oops, I Did It Again! How Advertisers Can Benefit From Intentional Mistakes

We’ve all heard the saying: If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again. But what if mistakes themselves can be tools for success? Whether it be a typo, a misprint, or an ill-informed pop-culture reference, companies often receive a surprising amount of social buzz when they make mistakes.

Take the out-of-home ads that were launched by wireless service provider Visible, which put, “Unlimited massages, minutes, and data” on a line of commercial billboards and trucks. While many chalked this up to a simple spelling error, the truth is that Visible was experimenting with intentional mistakes in their advertising- and their experiment was a huge success! This typo catapulted Visible into the national spotlight, and ultimately allowed them to capitalize upon this new attention by offering free massages to passersby during one of their in-person events. Their public explanation was in perfect alignment with their company’s mission: “with Visible, what you see is what you get…even if that means free massages from a phone company”.

Why was this campaign a smashing success? Visible understood that intentional mistakes work best when strategy covers both pre- and post-launch. By responding to tweets and playing into the narrative that they made a humorous error, Visible was able to foster a sense of community among its audience because they made consumers feel as though they were in on something. By the time their free massage event was announced, consumers felt that attending was the perfect way to prove that they were in on the joke. What’s more, Visible gained a whopping 78% more leads than expected, leading to higher sales on top of an overload of social mentions. Through this campaign, Visible exemplified three tenets of advertising that every company should focus on.

Great Ads Align With Their Company’s Purpose

When launching an ad, it is critical that you keep the vision of your company in mind. Refer to your company’s values and goals for growth, then aim at objectives and employ specific tactics accordingly. This is especially important when launching a “mistake” campaign. When employing intentional mistakes, know that said mistakes are only effective when they point consumers back to your company’s values. Not all attention is good attention – successful mistakes have purpose. Because of this, many “intentional mistakes” really do end up being mistakes in marketing strategy because companies are too willing to trade long-term brand advancement for short-term attention.

Great Ads Generate Healthy F.O.M.O.

Great ads make their audience want to be a part of something. Some show consumers that they are missing out on a must-have product, others invite consumers into an exclusive/elite group based on the product’s price, availability, etc. Others, like Visible, create community among their audience by allowing consumers to catch onto the company’s mistakes, thus gaining loyalty from people who want to be in on the next joke too. FOMO (fear of missing out) in advertising is real; it’s time more companies capitalize on it!

Great Ads Keep Their Audience In Mind

Ads are only as successful as their audience allows them to be. A company could launch the most creative and purpose-driven ad in all of recorded history, but that ad would flop if it were presented to the wrong audience. Moreover, companies that lose sight of their audience usually end up in hot water after launching offensive content that fails to resonate with their audience (Ex. Pepsi’s infamous Kendall Jenner ad). Visiblepredicted that by making fun of their mistake on Twitter, they would gain attention from millennials who typically value humor and transparency from brands. The result to their prediction and experiment? A fun ad that demonstrated Visible’s commitment to its mission by leaving customers with a quick chuckle (and a free massage).

Mistakes in advertising are a lot more strategic than they often appear. When done incorrectly, they risk making brands look sloppy, careless, and unprofessional. They should certainly not be the go-to solution for growing business! Rather, intentional mistakes work when they are part of a larger strategy to advance a company’s mission. Only through this strategy can the company grow their business- not through going viral and earning a fleeting moment in the spotlight.

That’s exactly what we are passionate about here at Warren Douglas: helping companies advance their mission and grow their business. If you’re looking for a creative approach to doing this, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have a great team of experts who would love to help.

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