It was a great product. I had used it for years. It kept my crazy hair smooth and smelled good too. At the store, I always knew where my beloved big orange bottle of shampoo would be.

Then one day, the unthinkable happened. They changed the packaging! I knew the brand, but didn’t know what exact formulation I’d been buying for years. I just knew it was the big orange bottle that stood out on the crowded shelf, and now it was gone.

Desperate, I enlisted the help of a sales person who began pulling all of the same brand’s products for me to inspect. “But I’m just not sure which one it is,” I exclaimed. Distraught, I ended up choosing an entirely different brand I had used before. That packaging change lost the brand a loyal customer.

I can’t imagine I’m alone.

Since that fateful, packaging changes have been a major marketing pet peeve for me. Sure, I know packaging needs to be updated from time to time. But dramatic change can be a risk. Remember the uproar over the new Tropicana bottles a few years ago? It was reported that the brand lost 20 percent of its sales over the new packaging design.

Pet Peeve or Effective Marketing?

My distaste for drastic packaging changes is just one of several marketing pet peeves I have. Yet what’s interesting to me is that many of the things I consider pet peeves annoy me even more because (on some level) they’re effective.

  1. Pop-up, walking, talking, flashing, or anything that happens automatically when I visit a website. Media sites are notorious for this. So much stuff is moving, popping up and making noise that I can’t even figure out where to click to make it stop. I’ve come to a site for a specific piece of content or to learn something. All that action stands in the way of me doing that and engaging with your brand.
  1. Political advertising – especially negative ads. Do we learn anything from a 30-second spot about a candidate? Do their commercials (which they pay oodles of money for so they don’t get bumped) really help anyone make a more informed decision? These ads say nothing. And all of the candidates say nearly the same thing: “I’m going to create jobs. I’m going to save the middle class. I’m going to fight the lobbyists and bureaucrats.” The devil is in the details, and there’s not nearly enough time in a commercial to describe what those details are. Yet millions (if not billions) of dollars are spent each election year on advertising, so there must be some effectiveness.

And Pet Peeves that are Just Unwise

  1. Using social media for advertising. As Carlos Gill said at this year’s AMA St. Louis conference “Brands must be social versus being ON social media.” There’s a huge difference. Listen, engage, have conversations with people, ask questions, let people get to know you, offer valuable solutions to problems your audience is facing. (And no, that solution is not an immediate response of “buy me now!”) I unfollow or skip over brands that I know are only there to sell me something. On the flip side, I share content about brands who engage with me, as a person, and whose intent is to help me.
  1. Not having a purpose. What is your brand? Why are you marketing? What do you want your audience to see, think and feel when they encounter your brand? What do you believe in? These are just some of the questions where you should dig deep before you do any marketing. But we see it all time. Businesses can get wowed by a special advertising offer or think they need to quickly jump on the newest bandwagon, but they don’t have a clear reason for why they’re doing it. Find this first, then act.
  1. Ad Cramming. You’ve seen them. They’re the ads that cram so much information into a 3” x 4” space in the local paper or magazine that: a) you can’t read it because the font is so small, and b) you have no idea what you’re supposed to do with the information. Keep it simple. Be true to your “why” and your audience, and let the connection be made.

What are some of your marketing pet peeves? I know I haven’t covered everything, and would love to hear what others think. Feel free to send me an email and let me know your marketing pet peeves.

Article written by

partner/marketing visionary/Don Henley worshipper