Marketing Mulligan: Do You Need a Do Over?

It’s interesting to me how seemingly random elements can converge, and this is the case for me and the “Marketing Mulligan.” I’ve had a few conversations lately with people from opposite sides of the globe asking about when it’s right for a company to admit failure and start over.

One such conversation centered on the topic of the GAP logo goof-up, which I blogged about a few months ago. (Will the GAP Logo Redesign Stick?). Another was a query about an app developer that had to pull back on an upgrade release.

Both of these examples are nightmares for marketers. The last thing you want to happen after planning and promoting an important launch, roll-out or upgrade, is to have to step back and say, “We were wrong.”Debating a Mulligan

Not only is a lot of money at stake (these things aren’t cheap), there is also the question of your brand equity. What does a giant misstep do to your reputation? Will your customers still believe in you? What about the media? Will you be persecuted or applauded for acknowledging the mistake?

Take a Mulligan

If you’re a golfer, you know the term mulligan. It’s an expression for a second chance, allowing you to take another shot when you mess up. It’s a “do-over.” You don’t get mulligans in the big leagues, and the world of business isn’t any more forgiving. So the decision to “take a mulligan” on a marketing mix-up should not be taken lightly.

Here are a few ways to know when it’s time to try:

  • Your mistake has hurt your customers, and will keep hurting them if it’s not fixed quickly.
  • The problem is difficult to fix, and may take a long time to resolve.
  • You made a fundamental error, misjudging your market or the outcomes of your decision.
  • You incited public backlash, and the only way to satisfy your constituents is to admit the error of your ways.
  • Your actions have created a dangerous situation that needs immediate action.

If any of the above is true, you need take a quick step back and do some damage control. It will cost money. It will hurt your reputation. Your ego may be bruised. But in the end, it’s the right thing to do.

A Graceful Do-Over

Just because you decide it’s time to re-group does not mean everyone will be happy. The way you recover says an awful lot about your company and how you feel about your customers. This is a golden opportunity, if handled correctly, to actually build customer loyalty.

A well executed do-over shows you care about customers and you will to do what’s necessary to meet their needs. How do you do this?

  • Move quickly. Don’t let the situation fester. If it looks like you need a mulligan, take it quickly and move on.
  • Admit failure, and apologize. This is the time for humility and sincerity.
  • Communicate clearly and accurately about the situation. Provide facts and assurances, not empty promises.
  • If you don’t know, you don’t know. Say so. It is better to be upfront and honest than to try to fill the gaps with information that may turn out to be incorrect.
  • Outline your plans for the future. Tell people is you’ve given up the concept completely, or if you plan to try again at a future date. If so, when? What will be different?

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

We all make mistakes. In fact, some of the most notable executives of our time have failed brilliantly. When the dust settles, take time to learn from what went wrong so you won’t make the same mistakes again. Adding some experience from the school of hard knocks will earn you respect from your peers, and will help you be more effective in the future.

Image by colsart

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