Turning Failure into Success

The opposite of success is failure. That’s pretty obvious, but when you’re failing it’s hard not to see it as defeat. Unlike defeat, failure gives you something back. It’s a learning experience that you can use to become better than before.

Integrated Communications professionals know failure all too well. We’ve been in the business for a long time and have seen many campaigns fail. Just look at the Super Bowl commercials for this year. There were approximately 48 advertisements between kickoff and the final whistle, but people only focus on about five to ten of them. Even when analyzing the buzz for the commercials, analysts only review about half of the commercials.

The objective of any campaign is to generate brand recognition and inspire action. This may seem like a simple concept, but we’ve all experienced the oversimplification of this in local car commercials. It’s a delicate art of hitting a very narrow target, and you can never be completely certain if it will catch the audience’s interest at all.

That’s why it’s important to research. You learn what a brand has done in the past, what similar brands are doing, what your audience reacts to, what they like, what they find offensive, and what they find funny. Through all that data, you come up with a campaign that might best appease this complicated audience.

Then after you scour your brain to come up with a campaign and are confident in the message, you implement and push out what you believe (or hope) to be a campaign that will resonate with your target audience. You go forth with every expectation of success– and then everything backfires. It’s easy to sulk and to let yourself feel defeated, but if you dig deep and pick yourself up you can see what didn’t work and make your next campaign better.

For example, your campaign could be very successful until its interrupted by an operational breakdown. When Chipotle was hit with numerous E.Coli, Norovirus and Salmonella outbreaks across the county, the restaurant chain took action and paused all current marketing efforts. Chipotle update its website to now include detailed descriptions of what they do to ensure that their food is safe for consumers and an explanation of how the outbreaks happened. This response could increase Chipotle’s level of trust with its customers due to their transparency in improving their restaurant safety model during this time of crisis.

Each failure brings you knowledge. The failure might be small, like a social media post with no likes or comments, or it might be huge, like paying $4.8 million for a Super Bowl Ad and generating very little buzz. You might feel like there’s nothing you can do when you’ve spent so much money on a campaign, but a great company knows when to re-evaluate (even if it’s in the middle of a rollout) and adjust to better meet audience expectations.

Immediately after releasing a campaign or encountering a crisis, you should be following audience reactions. Review the delivery of your message: was it released at a time that many people would see it, could the audience read the type/coloring, were there technological difficulties? There are so many things that can take away from an otherwise amazing campaign, and if you skip this analysis step, you may miss out on how to make your campaign a success. Often times, it is only in failure that you can discover what you were missing to succeed.

After all, Michael Jordan didn’t initially make his high school basketball team, the founder of Macy’s failed in multiple business ventures before his booming success, Ludwig van Beethoven lost his hearing and still continued to compose. Many people say they hate failure, and though that is a valid sentiment, it should not keep you from embracing them in order to drive yourself towards success.

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