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Published February 26th 2022

How to Avoid Marketing Mistakes That Impact Your Bottom Line

Marketers make mistakes every day. Here's how to learn from and avoid them in the future.

A few years ago, a Brandwatch intern was let loose on the company's Twitter account.

At the time we were promoting a guide on community management, and he took a rather interesting approach on the wording of the social post. We awoke the day after promoting the guide to a number of angry replies, accusing us of being rude and disparaging. Bad times. What had he tweeted?

“Don’t be a stupid marketer. Download our guide.” Grimace emoji.

Despite the vocal reaction, and our swift deletion of the tweet, it still became on to be one of our most clicked through tweets of all time, and the guide was a big hit. Sure, it definitely should have been worded better. It was questionable in tone. But the sentiment actually rings true. Marketers don’t want to be stupid.

So what point are we making here? Well, marketers do make simple mistakes every day, despite the abundance of insights available.

While that’s bad news for most marketers, it’s good news for you. It means if you learn from their mistakes, you’ll have a competitive advantage.

In this blog we'll take you through four common mistakes marketers make and give examples on how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: “Consumer preferences are constantly changing.”

We often think of our consumers as irrational – constantly changing their minds. As soon as a new competitor enters our market we’re terrified they’ll steal loyal customers. So, marketers change campaigns and strategy to keep up to speed with ever-altering consumer preferences.

While there’s some merit to thinking like this, it largely evades a fundamental law consumers align with: The consistency principle. The principle was first noticed in 1968 by two Canadian psychologists, Knox & Inkster. They found that gamblers are more confident their horse will win immediately after they place a bet. Nothing about the horse or its odds has changed. But something in the consumer’s mind has.

Once we make a choice we will encounter pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.

How to avoid the mistake

Some enterprising marketers have learned ways to harness the power of the consistency principle. Google your favorite festival and pull up a promotional poster. There will be an important piece of information missing from the poster – the price. Why? Because promoters have recognized that concert goers are more likely to buy a ticket after they’ve searched for the price. The time spent searching only increases the likeliness they’ll purchase.

Here's another example. A few years ago, a video game manufacturer used Brandwatch to learn if the consistency principle affected sales. In the run-up to a major gaming event they monitored two strands of conversation about their games:

  • General discussion about the game (eg this game looks cool)
  • Intent to purchase discussion (eg I want this game)

The results were fascinating. Game 1 generated more conversation. But game 2 generated more intent to purchase mentions.

What became clear after the release was that general conversation didn’t have an effect on sales. But intent to purchase mentions, due to the consistency principle, did. People are more likely to buy a game if they’ve already said they will. By just looking at the hype around games, which is constantly changing based on what's trending, marketers can make the wrong decisions.

Mistake #2: “Always be closing.”

Okay, this is really a sales concept, but it’s regularly adopted by marketers. Marketers often believe every campaign needs clear calls to actions, next steps, and conversions.

But is this focus on closing effective? Some research suggests not.

In the 70s, a university professor sent Christmas cards to complete strangers. He expected a handful of replies, he actually received a sackful. Despite not knowing the professor, strangers went out of their way to reply (Kumz & Woolcott, 1976). The experiment showcased the rule of reciprocation. The rule means that we try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.

How to avoid the mistake

A few years back LateRooms, an online hotel booking site, embarked on a new strategy – the ‘concierge’ service. The social media service aimed to help anyone looking for advice about their next holiday.

When a holiday-goer tweeted about food recommendations in Madrid, or free beaches in Faro, Brandwatch would immediately alert the LateRooms team.

Rather than responding with LateRooms offers (in the always be closing fashion) they responded with tips on the best spots and the hottest deals.

"Of all enquiries to the concierge service, a stunning 30% went on to become sales," said Ricard Kemp, Social Media Manager at Late Rooms at the time.

This had a considerable effect on consumers. Rather than ignoring LateRooms because they were being sold to, they felt indebted.

Mistake #3: "Our consumers like choice"

You’re debating what to include in your end-of-year newsletter.This year the team developed 30 apps (pretty impressive). You can’t agree on which to include. Eventually you decide you should include them all. After all, consumers like the choice.

Well, it’s a mistake.

To explain, let’s look at this famous research by Sheena Iyengar (2000).She set up two tasting booths with a variety of gourmet jams. One booth had six different jams and the other had twenty-four. Conventional wisdom says more choices are better as consumers are more likely to find a jam they like. But, Iyengar found the opposite was true. Only 3% of consumers at the 24 variety booth bought jam. While 30% of consumers at the 6 variety booth purchased. Iyengar had proved the power of scarcity.

A 2018 study by Richard Shotton showcased that this power can have a great effect on cinema marketing. 300 consumers saw a poster for a new film and were asked how likely they were to go and watch it. Half of the participants were also told the film was closing this weekend. Those who knew the film was ending were 36% more likely to attend.

How to avoid the mistake

Brandwatch customers have had found similar success utilizing the scarcity tactic.

Bimbo, an international baked goods company, launched a new special edition cake, the “Gansito Red Velvet”. Predominantly Bimbo’s sales came from Mexico but the company chose not to offer the special edition cake to that market.

When news of the cake launch hit Mexico, the scarcity effect kicked in for their loyal customers. In one day 5,197 Mexican customers took to Twitter demanding the cake. Rather than releasing right away, Bimbo raised hype by playing on the scarcity principle. Using Facebook, Twitter and key influencers they released teaser content declaring that the special edition cake was on its way.

Then, on launch day, they chose to limit the distribution to only two locations, Mexico City and Guadalajara. By now the scarcity principle had taken hold and conversation online had grown by 12% month on month.

The product sold out in eight weeks, four weeks earlier than expected. The campaign reversed the negative trend of sales by generating $580,000 in revenue.

Mistake #4: “Personalized marketing is more effective”

You’re scrolling through the web. An advert pops up. It contains pictures of your father, husband and brother. Underneath each picture is tagline “A holiday your whole family would love – tickets to Barcelona just $500”.

You wince at first wondering (a) how they got that information and (b) what else advertisers know about you.

Many marketers assume personalized marketing is the way forward, but these kind of campaigns can really backfire.

How to avoid the mistake

A more effective, less risky strategy is localization. JC Decaux (2016) revealed this after displaying two posters for broadband providers. Version one related the offer to the UK, version two based the ad on the location it was in, Charing Cross station.The result – locally tailored activity generated a 14% higher awareness than the national message.

In a similar vein, Richard Shotton (2018) proved the power of localization with NHS’ Give Blood campaign. He changed ad copy from “blood stocks low across the UK please help” to “blood stocks are low in Brighton (or Bristol or Birmingham) please help”. The change caused a 10% improvement in the cost per donation.


As marketers, we compete in crowded markets. We’re constantly told to reinvent our work and keep up with the speed of our consumers.

And it’s why we make mistakes.

But each mistake made leaves an opportunity for the rest. Those who prioritize reliable insights, and back up their claims with real data, will win.

At Brandwatch, we make it easier than ever for marketers to get to those insights. We gather millions of conversations every day and we can shine light on the mistakes you and your competitors are making.

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