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Digital Don’ts – Avoiding Digital Marketing Gimmicks

Digital marketing is all around us. Things like online video, apps, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, motion graphics, chat bots, web design, UX design, social media content and social influencers are hot topics. Not just because they’re awesome, but because they work.

Brands have acknowledged that going digital reaches wider audiences, is more cost efficient, more effective, produces a higher ROI, and offers advanced targeting. Plus, it’s more fun. And really cool (but we’re biased).

Many traditional agencies and their brands have recognized the potential of digital. But how do you determine when something is actually beneficial to your brand and their audiences, or if it’s swaying on the edge of gimmicky?

Digital marketing opens up a world of opportunities, but knowing what to do and what not to do will make a huge difference in the success of your content. There’s a long list of things to watch out for when considering digital marketing.

Here’s our top five Digital Don’ts:


1. Clickbait

Clickbait is everywhere, and consumers are on to it. Social media, search engines, and even news sources are using click bait to increase readership and engage new users. The problem with clickbait is it often over exaggerates facts, is misleading, or straight up lies. If you want to lose your audience’s trust, use clickbait.

Usually when a user clicks on your story, banner, or ad, they are being drawn in by the title or headline. It is an exchange between marketer and consumer; An exchange in which the customer is trusting the advertiser to deliver what they are being promised.

If your content doesn’t relate to what the title or headline introduces it as, viewers will not be happy. Unhappy customers equal lost customers; Lost customers equal a loss in revenue, so choose your titles wisely.


2. A Misguided Contest

Online and social media contests are great for increasing audience engagement. Brands like Eggo and Dove have been successful doing so in the past, but the problem with contests being presumably easy, is that anyone thinks they can run them.

Eggo, Waffle Off Recipe Contest
dove-real-beauty-contest
Dove, Real Beauty Contest

There are certain things to consider when planning a contest. First of all, they require very clear rules and guidelines to ensure that your followers participate correctly and nobody is left disappointed. Make sure the rules are clear enough that audiences will follow them, and not too difficult that nobody will participate.

Don’t ask for too much information, either. Most participants don’t enjoy providing personal data, and won’t partake if you ask for private details. Plus, you must ensure the prize is worth the time it takes to enter.

Lastly, a common mistake is beginning a contest and letting it be until it’s over. Don’t “set it and forget it.” Put in the time and make sure someone is monitoring the progress, answering questions in the comments, and communicating with the audience. If you want to spark engagement, engage with your customers first and make sure the contest doesn’t become dormant.


3. Hashtag Mishaps

Hashtags are important to create buzz around you brand, gain new followers, and stay current. Whether you’re creating your own or using existing ones, hashtags can either act as the foundation of or augment your marketing campaign in a great way. But, if hashtags aren’t thought out, they could result in #disaster.


A great example from Always, #LikeAGirl campaign

You don’t want hashtags to be too long. Also, make sure that when joining words together, you use capitalization when necessary so they won’t be misconstrued as something else. Hashtags can also be used in high volumes or used sparingly.

Understanding which hashtags to use, and how many, takes practice. Just make sure it works for your brand. You don’t want to get swept into an area, or niche social community, where a hashtag is being used for something specific, or something negative, that you don’t your brand to be aligned with.

Do your research and stay current, and that goes for everything you post on your brand’s social media. Think things through before posting to avoid making the same mistake McDonalds just made, resulting in their competitor, Wendy’s, calling them out.


4. News-Jacking

Similar to clickbait, news-jacking is when you use news-worthy, hot topics for your brand to be relevant, but it’s dangerous waters. A good example is when Ford shared a beautifully crafted ad in response to Saudi Arabia lifting its ban on women drivers. A poor example is when Pepsi hijacked buzz around social issues, using “protest imagery to peddle soda” in their tone-deaf ad.

If you want to mention news, it’s a safer bet to cover it from your own perspective – your brand’s perspective, that is – and bring in your own insights, opinions and experiences into the narrative. Just make sure it’s actually related to your brand, otherwise you’ll get called out on hijacking a social issue or news story just to make money, rather than be considered a conversation starter or thought leader.


5. VR, AR & Apps

Lastly, and most importantly don’t use new tech just for the sake of using new tech. Augmented reality, for example, can be a great tool for storytelling, increasing audience engagement, presenting content in an interesting way, creating memorable interactions, and more.

As for virtual reality, brands like Samsung, Toms, and Mercedes have successfully used VR in their marketing to demonstrate product attributes, communicate their brand’s mission, and immerse users.


TOMS Virtual Giving Trip

The key is to make sure you’re not turning to VR or AR because your strategy is weak. Rather, these platforms should be used to strengthen a campaign in a way that makes sense. That being said, creating a VR or AR experience also shouldn’t be an afterthought.

There are a lot of things to consider to create a successful experience that audiences appreciate. That goes for apps, too. Not everything needs an app, so review whether putting the time and effort necessary to create one from scratch is worth it.


The world of digital presents wonderful opportunities, new ways of reaching consumers, exciting new platforms, and endless possibilities. Now that you know what not to do, check out our list of things you should do.

Be bold and try new things, just be sure to do your research, evaluate what makes sense for your brand, and create content with your audience in mind.

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