Halloween Marketing: Beware Disturbing Stories for Sales Pros!

Every Halloween, Sales and Marketing professionals sit around the campfire telling each other campaign horror stories? The following are all true stories, only the names have been changed so that the brands don’t have to live through the horror again. As with all good horror stories, they are told to act as a warning to others….so enjoy!

Scared Marekting PersonDon't take it personally!

As any good sales and marketing professional knows, it is good drills to invest some time to understand your audience. Developing a ‘persona’ strategy is extremely effective when learning and understanding how to best serve your audience.

The tale of the persona - One such organisation used personas in their sales and marketing approach. Their target persona happened to be marketing professionals, who are savvy to such an approach. Developing a whole profile for your persona includes giving your persona a name, in this case ‘Marketing Linda’. So when the organisation fired out thousands of emails to marketing professionals, all with the title ‘Dear Marketing Linda’ it went viral! Hard to detract once it had already been sent and apart from maybe the Linda’s who work in marketing and who would have been oblivious no doubt, everyone else understood what was going on and responded with either funny replies or unsubscribed. No-one knows what happened to the person/people who fired off the communication, maybe they walk the corridors haunting other marketeers at the same time every year….

Marketing Halloween

Flotation not liquidation!

Back in the early 2000’s with hype around a very successful growing company and their anticipated launch on the AIM. With press releases written, marketing material printed and ready in the post (this was 2001), interviews set up, the sales team fired up, everything was in place for a successful launch! Come the big day, a simple typo from a possibly very tired journalist in a major broadsheet changed all that in a heartbeat! Instead of using the word ‘flotation’ they used the word liquidation!! The complete opposite!?

You have to remember that this was back in the day of printed press, so it was not as easy to retract the statement. Websites were not as easy to change back then either! What resulted was that everyone in the company had to man the phones, whilst receiving confused incoming calls, across the world, all the time reassuring people that this was an error and that the company was still floating not going under! Sending shivers up the spine of anybody about to release information to the press, knowing that these things can and do happen. The lesson to learn is ‘never assume’, and prepare for every eventuality, even as farfetched as they might seem at the planning stage, because if you don't plan, then like those poor unsuspecting people you see in many horror films, you may find yourself frozen to the spot!

What lurks beneath? 

Deep Web SentimentBrands large and small, B2C to B2B like to keep a finger on the pulse regarding how their brand, products, service are considered in the eyes of their audience. But perception is not necessarily reality! What your audience appear to be saying about you within your customer, prospect, partner, influencer and analyst groups on the surface web might not necessarily be mirrored in the deep web. What is the deep web? The internet is made of three main areas; Surface, Deep and Dark.

The Surface web is the layer that most of us use every day, using search engines to find information, companies, products etc. the Surface web makes up circa only 7% of the overall internet! Down the bottom end is the Dark web! The Dark web is much smaller than the other two areas and is often referred to within the press/media when something bad is occurring. This dark, forboding area of the internet is often where untoward activity is conducted out of sight, so don’t go down that road as nothing good will come of it.

The Deep web however sits below the Surface web and is substantially the largest area of the internet. These are uncategorised areas of the internet, mainly because they don’t necessarily need to be found by search engines. Peer to peer forums and special interest groups can discuss and share information openly. So, if you are in charge of your organisation’s development, strategy, product roadmap, service or sales then there is a whole world you are missing. This other world of the deep web contains a lot of positive data and intelligence. It is also where people can openly discuss you and competitor brands. It is not quite the ‘upside down’ (Stanger Things reference) but it is another world that exists. Don't hide under your duvet it in a vain attempt it will go away, while your competitors bravely delve into the deep web. Secret Source monitor the surface and weep web environments and can uncover any skeletons hiding. If you want to know what your competitors ‘did last summer’ then come and speak to us. Tell Me More? 

Marketing is scary

The meeting from hell!

I think we can all relate to this nightmare? When meetings don’t go to plan, it can be like a scene from a horror movie. This has only been exasperated by the increase of conference call meetings that we all do so many of. There are too many examples here, most famously documented on YouTube and in many parodies. We’ve heard tales of sales and marketing people moving from meeting to meeting and pitching to the wrong company. The host of an event not being able to mute a participant answering the door to a steady stream of delivery drivers throughout the whole meeting with over 50 participants. Diary clashes, different time zones the horror continues well after Halloween has passed. Seeing as we cannot avoid meetings, then this nightmare is one activity that will never go away and haunt us for years to come…sleep tight!

Here are a few examples of when meetings can go bad...


Scary spreadsheetsWhat's hiding under your sheets!

Sending data back and forth is scary, especially with GDPR rules to keep us awake at night! In sales, sending the wrong figures to a prospect or client is often followed by a blood-curdling scream! We remember the tale of the hidden spreadsheet, a warning that being too clever with spreadsheets, can come back to haunt you. The story goes that a major prospect brief included sending a spreadsheet to interested, tendering parties. Unfortunately, the spreadsheet was hiding some secrets. One clever Sales Director, an 'Excel Ninja' if you like, discovered that lurking underneath ‘the sheets’ were hidden tabs and data. These contained very useful information indeed; budget parameters, margins, competitive information and much more! In fact the more he dug, the more skeletons he found. This put him in a quandary, what was he to do? Does he use the information to his unfair advantage or confess? In fact, he did the right thing and reported it to the owner of the spreadsheet and watched while they turned white as a sheet, clutching their heart. Needless to say, the whole deal was postponed and it was a nightmare for everyone involved. As a horror story, this works on so many different levels; the unsuspecting sender, the case of knowing too much and finally everyone suffering the same fate! You have been warned!
Scared sales person


When you see 1000’s of posts today on social media you are blissfully unaware of the horrors that lie beneath! The many stories of spelling mistakes, unflattering graphics, innuendos, the list goes on. shutterstock_1338997721But for Marketing professionals using whizzy technology and hitting so many deadlines, can lead to disaster! Take the case of social posts automated and due to go out at a future date, but due to gremlins in the machine, the messages went out promoting an entirely different company!


Advertising mistake

The headless marketeer

Or how about the case of beautiful campaigns, taking months to put together, but then forgetting one essential ingredient, the company name!? This can be quickly remedied in many cases but when it is at an international sporting event, on advertising boards…maybe not. Stories of electronic signage at major football stadiums that get cut off at an inappropriate time or have an unfortunate unmovable object in front of it. This is the stuff of nightmares for marketing professionals, brand consultants, advertising companies. I know we said that we would not reveal the names of some of the brands, but take a look for yourself, if you think it’s not true! Advertising disasters 

Marketing Halloween

The imposter!

Unless you’ve had to do it yourself as a sales or marketing professional, then some will not fully appreciate all the moving parts when putting together an integrated campaign. One story we have is a company putting together an international campaign. Everything was in place for a successful marketing campaign. The signature piece was to be customers from different corners of the world talking seriously about challenges in business. Multiple languages were going to be overlaid over the movie. The talent agency sent one person? The penny should have dropped there and then. The person that was sent, claimed they could speak six different languages. This would mean less time resetting different people in the recording studio and it would take no time at all, perfect! However, this person had embellished their CV and never thought anything of it at the time. The person spoke English as their first language but soon realised what was being asked of them, instead of confessing or running away, they proceeded to blag the other five languages!? Then ensued some comedy sounding stereotyped accents. With the campaign team left bemused, it soon dawned on them that this was an actor, not a voiceover artist at all, who could only pretend to be from all over the world, and not able to speak a word of any other language. Funny now, but at the time this was a true horror story for everyone involved and enough to send a chill up any marketeer’s spine. But the footage is still out there, somewhere...

Halloween copywritingGhostly words

For marketing teams and copywriters, in a busy work environment, with many deadlines to hit, then familiarity is an enemy. Getting your company name wrong for a start is not as uncommon as you might think. There are a few famous examples including the one below. This company deciding to turn it around into a positive. Staring at text for long periods of time, people start to read what they want to read, inserting text and joining words that are not actually there..that is spooky in itself. Avoid this nightmare by having a fresh set of eyes, is advisable, with someone not close to the project. For example see below, as answers people say that they see between 2-10....you have been warned!

ghostly words

whats in the boxWhat’s in the Box!?

Corporate gifts is a big market and to stand out you have to innovate. This is the horror story of the corporate gift order turned nightmare. Marketing team had a great idea for a campaign, personalised boxes sent to a select number of key CEO’s. Sample boxes were carefully assembled containing items that a CEO could not ignore. The campaign went out and it was a roaring success! The horror came when the campaign went to scale! Ordering thousands of the same items was a different kettle of fish, availability, shipping, cost all came into play. Tasked with sourcing similar items the team found some suitable replacements. However, when hundreds of boxes arrived at the office, they were not as they seemed! The items had come halfway around the world, they were three times the size of the original, the instructions were in a very niche dialect and importantly, they didn’t work! While the good news was that once the team complained, they did not have to pay for the substandard items, however they were stuck with hundreds of boxes with thousands of items. Very much like the final scene in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, they were put in a vault hidden from view, forgotten, only be resurfaced by some poor unsuspecting facilities manager in later years, don’t open that box!

Don't open that boxFinal Halloween warning!

We do hope you enjoyed our true horror stories in Sales & Marketing and may these reali life examples stand as a warning to others! You'll have to wait till next year for our other frightful encounters we have heard happening to Sales, Markeitng and business porfessionals, so meanwhile please subscribe below for some less chilling and more useful content we publish throughout the year.  


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Written by Nick Carlson