When Marketing Tests Kill the Brand


This morning I read a case study from Neil Patel on Quick Sprout called: What Spending $57,000 on Instagram Taught Me. In a nutshell Neil bought an Instagram account with over 100,000 followers and then switched the brand to promote his brand. He lost a lot of followers but he kept a lot too. Here’s the story…

We bought an existing lifestyle account that had roughly 131,000 followers and changed its name to @whoisneilpatel.

A social media consultant came up with the idea and Neil went for it. The paid sexy women with large followings on Instagram to give away big ticket item prizes in exchange for following Neil on Instagram. Classic marketing to men (GoDaddy is/was king of and Carl’s Jr. is giving it a shot). It didn’t go over well with everyone though.

Right away on the top of the post you can see the apology of sorts:

Instagram-marketing-Neil-Patel

When I checked, all the images except one have been removed and I’m not going to post it. The comments are telling. Men and women who know Neil’s brand and follow him saw the campaign and couldn’t believe it came from him. It didn’t fit what they expect from him and many were very turned off by it.

Example:

lost-business

First, I get it. As a PR person I recommend that people ride a wave rather than create one (especially since my followers are mostly small businesses). In other words, when something is being talked about or successful, see how you can leverage the attention or take part of the conversation if it fits your brand. In this case, Neil noted the success of Dan Bilzerian – a man who built a following of over 5 million Instagram followers by showing off his wealth (he reminds me of the Rich Jerk). The problem is that Dan’s style doesn’t work for Neil’s audience. While Neil might get some followers from this, it cost him more than money. It broke trust.

I used to blog a lot about the porn industry because they are pioneers in online marketing.  I stopped when I realized it attracted people who cared about the porn industry to my blog. It’s not an industry I want to be associated with or like, so I stopped. It doesn’t matter how interesting the tactics, it’s just not what I want to be part of my brand. So I talk about ideas or think about them but don’t reference the industry. Lesson learned.

On Facebook I’m part of a social media masterminds group. I usually want to ask how someone is doing something that is working well. Sometimes what they are doing is spammy or won’t work for my brand, but I’m so curious. I want to know if there’s a way to learn from what they are doing. Sometimes the effect is that instead of people deconstructing with me, as I hope, they call me out on the ethics of what I’m asking. Both sides are frustrated and I wonder if it’s bad for my brand to ask questions like that, even in a private forum.

When I first started in online marketing, I was a single mom with $217 a month child support. Having been a stay-at-home mom I needed to find a way to make money and spend time with my son. I was looking for answers and direction. I met a friend who was making a huge amount of money who offered to teach me what he was doing. First, I quickly realized what he was doing was way above my tech skills. Second, I realized what he was doing was working well but wasn’t sustainable or ethical. This was confirmed when I read an article in Wired Magazine that called him out by name as one of the top sploggers in the nation. Since then he’s gone on to do things that are more sustainable.

My point is: I love to experiment and learn. However, if I experiment with my own brand I have to be really careful not to risk my brand. That post I made on Facebook about an essential oil deal, didn’t work and it diluted my brand. It didn’t serve them. I never talk about health or essential oils so it was not congruent. I listened to a friend who really wanted me to do it. I’ve seen so many friends do so well on doTerra that I felt like I had to try. Mistake.

Nothing I’ve ever tried that was tricky in the slightest has ever paid off long term. It’s sad how many times I have had to learn this lesson. I’ve steered clear of partners who use methods that are unethical or who don’t fit my brand. I even try to avoid clients who don’t. I need to avoid anything that doesn’t fit my brand and the trust I’ve worked so many years to build.

Experimenting is powerful because you learn what works. It was brave of Neil to share what he did and how it went and to include numbers. I love it when bloggers share their income and lessons from their journey. I respect and love when someone is willing to be vulnerable and open up about what they’re doing. I learn so much from it.

The problem is, spammers and sleezy marketers are prevalent in our industry. You’ve got to stay far away from them or you risk being seen as one of them. Trust takes so long to build but can be gone so quickly. In this case Neil risked being hated by his loyal followers. If you’re not careful you can be perceived as one of the spammers. As marketers we know perception is everything. So here’s my advice to myself, Neil, and other marketers. Keep the curiosity — just don’t let it kill your brand.