10 Business Mistakes You Don’t Need to Make—Because These Businesses Already Made Them

One sentence horror story: You find out you have made irreparable business mistakes. Now take a deep breath, that was only a warning.

Mistakes are the learning blocks of life, but also the roadblocks to your businesses success.

Take a look at the following common business mistakes, and be sure to take notes:

Social Media

1. Offensive Humour

The only thing better than saying an offensive joke is not saying an offensive joke. Might seem counter-intuitive for me to recommend you not to offend your customers, but some big name companies made this exact mistake. Pancake giant, IHOP, recently tweeted a picture of a pancake with the tagline “Flat but has a GREAT personality”. This double entendre offended their followers, and the company received a lot of backlash. Even though they deleted their tweet and apologized, the damage was done. The media and their followers were not forgiving of IHOP’s business mistakes and continued to call the company sexist and inappropriate.

2. Misused Hashtags

Might be common sense, but before you use a hashtag make sure you know the meaning behind it. Pizza company DiGirono unknowingly used a trending hashtag for domestic violence for self-promotion: #WhyIStayed You had pizza. Understandably, twitter users were outraged, and the company’s reputation was called into question. 

3. Controversial AI Bots  

Completely automating your social media may sound like a good idea in theory, but in practice, it may not be such a good thing. Last year, Microsoft introduced “Tay”, an AI-powered Twitter robot. She was designed to talk like a teenage girl, and pick up on social cues as more people interacted with her. Like a toddler at the adults’ table, she quickly picked up on inappropriate conversations and started posting incredibly offensive tweets. If you want to see chatbots done right, click here.

Public Relations

4. Not Following Current Events

With the instant connection that social media brings, companies must always be aware of current issues. Uber fell victim to this when they unintentionally walked into a political firestorm. During Trump’s recent travel ban, many taxi and car sharing services decided to temporarily halt their services in solidarity. Uber, on the other hand, decided to provide discounts and emphasize the fact their drivers were still on the road. Many of their customers were unhappy, and the #DeleteUber hashtag was started. The company lost thousands of customers and severely damaged their brand’s reputation. Whether you agree with Uber or not, they got themselves caught up in a fight they did not belong in.

5. Down Playing Product Fails

When something bad happens, own it. Customer trust is an extremely valuable, and fragile, asset. When Samsung phones started exploding, the company tried to sweep everything under the rug. Instead of immediately recalling their phones and sending out mass alerts, they created an unnoticeable tab on their website and waited days until posting on social media. They lost billions, damaged their brand’s reputation, and destroyed customers trust. As a result, their mobile division’s bottom line plummeted a jaw-dropping 96%

6. Not Being Transparent

Similar to #5, be as transparent as possible. As you have probably heard, Yahoo was recently involved in a public relations nightmare. The company was hacked twice, which comprised more than one billion accounts. Even though the company was aware of the hack since 2014, they only disclosed the security breach this past September — two months after agreeing to sell to Verizon for 4.8 billion. Obviously, their customer trust was broken, and their entire reputation was questioned. Moral of these business mistakes, be as honest and transparent as possible.

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7. Overly Edited Photos

There is a fine line between cleaning up a photo and overly editing it. Especially with today’s body positive movement, companies that project unrealistic beauty standards face the negative backlash. Victoria’s Secret is a habitual offender, by promoting images like these. This creates a disconnect with their customer base and allows competitors to capitalize on their mistakes. Aerie has taken the opposite route, by emphasizing body positivity and unedited photos — an initiative that has been well received by their customer base.

8. Insensitivity

When your company acknowledges tragic events, make sure your efforts are tasteful and thoughtful. When the beloved singer Prince passed, Cheerios decided to pay their respects by posting a photo of “Rest in Peace” behind a purple background, with the hashtag #Prince. This seems innocent enough, but they decided to dot their “i” with a cheerio. This gave the impression they were capitalizing off the singer’s death, and their customers were not happy.

9. Political Ignorance

When you’re creating an ad for a specific region, make sure to do your homework. Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, their 2016 New Year’s greeting backfired, when they managed to offend both Russians and Ukrainians. They shared a festive map of Russia on a Russian social media site, excluding the region of Crimea — an area of Ukraine-Russia annexed in 2014. Russian patriots were immediately angered by the image and posted pictures pouring the soft drink down the toilet, with the hashtag #BanCocaCola. In an attempt to remedy the situation, Coca-Cola deleted the original image and re-uploaded a version that included Crimea- only to upset their Ukrainian users. Soon after, Ukrainian customers started boycotting the brand. Even the Ukrainian embassy chimed in, stating their disapproval of the ad.

10. Incorrect International Translations

Before you enter a foreign market, the least you could do is translate your messages properly. Your customers want to feel appreciated and understood, so it is probably a good idea to ensure your international translations are on par. Unfortunately, there are countless examples to choose from. But, my personal favourite boils down to two: the American Dairy Association, and Coors. The American Dairy Association’s milk campaign was soured when they entered Spain. As it turned out, the American Dairy Association’s “Got Milk” slogan literally translated to “Are you lactating?”— probably not the message they were trying to get across. Even worse, Coors lights “turn it loose” campaign translated to “Suffer from diarrhea”.

Skip the whole “learn from your mistakes” thing, and instead learn from theirs. Save yourself the embarrassment and damaging consequences, and use this as an example of business mistakes to avoid!

Want more tips on how not to fail? Click here to learn from the experts.

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