In March, Rhode Island unveiled a new marketing campaign for the state to encourage tourism, create jobs and help boost the state’s economy. The effort was from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Havas and famed designer Milton Glaser. Unfortunately, it was met with quick and vehement opposition.
The campaign unveiled a new logo and tagline — “Cooler and Warmer.” Residents hated it and quickly mounted a protest. The state probably could have weathered that storm but then the campaign’s core video also came under assault. It turns out that some of the footage trying to encourage people to come to Rhode Island was actually of Iceland. This blunder made national headlines and caused the chief marketing officer for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to resign because of the situation.
On top of all that — some of the vendors who helped create the campaign will be returning over $100,000.
"It's unacceptable how many mistakes were made in this rollout," Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo reportedly said of the campaign. "We need to hold people accountable because Rhode Islanders deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better, and too many mistakes were made."
Telling the truth has always been a best practice when it comes to marketing but in today’s age of instant fame and instant shame — it’s too risky to do anything else.
You don’t have to falsify something in your marketing to incur the wrath of the Internet. Everyone from McDonalds to Starbucks suffered from the world’s disapproval over the past year.
What does this have to do with you? I think it’s a good reminder of the best practices:
Tell the truth: Don’t cut corners, don’t lie by omission and don’t use assets (photos, videos, infographics, words) that aren’t yours or imply something that isn’t true.
Monitor the web: If you’re out there telling your story, you should also be monitoring what people are saying about your efforts.
Always include outside eyes: In this Forbes article, they outline marketing blunders by the likes of Bud Light and Walmart. Usually by the time you create the marketing materials you have been thinking and talking about them for so long — you’re a little blind about some of the more subtle implications. Show an outsider your campaign before you launch it to see if they see something that you’re no longer able to notice.
In the good old days, when you made a marketing mistake it had a limited exposure and cost. Today, neither of those is limited. The world is watching and it's a brutal bunch when it comes to truth in advertising.