Learning from underperforming marketing campaigns will help you gain new insights, change course and achieve your objectives.


Adopting a fail-fast-and-learn mentality is one of the keys to succeeding in today’s swiftly evolving digital economy. The ability to change course and learn from underperforming projects will help you improve processes and operations while avoiding past mistakes.

When it comes to digital marketing, analyzing the data from failed ad campaigns will provide meaningful insights you can use to adjust your efforts and achieve your marketing and business objectives.

How to turn data into actionable lessons

What do you do when a tweet doesn’t land in the way you intended or hoped? Or when an ad campaign misses the mark with your target audience? In today’s always-online world, it’s critical to listen, regroup and use what you learn from failed marketing campaigns to do better. This is how you will reach, engage and build positive relationships with potential and existing customers.

Postmedia suggests following these five best practices for using data to reset, learn and improve marketing campaigns to achieve your objectives:

1.   Own your mistakes

Today’s consumers are more sophisticated than ever and understand the layers of oversight that are involved before the launch of a marketing campaign. They are also more than willing to jump on their social channels to voice their discontent when ads are tone deaf or offensive in some way.

It doesn’t matter that you didn’t intend the campaign to be hurtful or that the messaging was misunderstood. It does matter that no one at the brand noticed, assessed or spoke up about potentially inflammatory messaging and/or images before posting them.

If you do become embroiled in a controversy and come up against significant backlash, accept responsibility for the error in judgment and apologize. This will help you regain control of the narrative. Most importantly, it will show people that you understand you made a mistake and that you have the self-awareness and conviction to want to learn, change and do better.

2.   Listen; really listen

This is especially important when issues such as religion, race, sexuality and gender are involved. The louder and angrier the backlash, the more you have to learn. There is likely a much bigger context at play that maybe you haven’t considered and should. Paying close attention will help you respond in the most appropriate and human way. This is what will help you maintain/regain trust.

3.   Understand what went wrong

Fight the urge to make big changes right away. Instead, take the time to understand what needs to be fixed. Ask for and assess feedback. Consider who didn’t like the campaign and find out why. The more details you have about what went wrong, the better you will be able to determine what needs to change to avoid a similar problem in the future.

4.   Analyze the data and regroup

Go back to the beginning to understand how the marketing campaign went wrong. Were you pitching the right audience and did you take the time to understand them? Was the message relevant? Clear? Engaging? Did you set appropriate targets and KPIs to realize those targets? What were the KPIs? Rates of engagement? What story do the social media comments tell? Once you pinpoint an error or errors, make the necessary adjustments or create a new campaign incorporating these insights. If the data tells you that the problem goes beyond any individual campaign, it may be necessary to create a new marketing strategy. Be thoughtful, anticipate potential future issues and refresh.

5.   Be willing to speak truth to power

When a marketing campaign or strategy goes wrong, it’s critical to re-engineer the process that led to the failure. If the data leads you to a company culture that limits input and invests too much power in decision makers, it’s important to present an honest, data-based evaluation of weak links in the messaging process — when, what and how things went off track. Adopting a fail-fast-and-learn mindset is about being willing to treat each failure as an opportunity to grow. Underperforming ad campaigns happen. Mistakes are part of marketing, just as they are part of business, just as they are part of life. The critical thing is to learn from what didn’t work and use that information to drive the results you want to achieve.