Why Marketing Messages Fail

Don’t Blame The Messenger

So, you burned the midnight oil, went through countless iterations of your work, consulted David Aaker’s book on “Signature Stories” and have unprecedented confidence in your marketing message. Yet, the best crafted messages still fail to hit their mark.

The trouble with marketing messages is that you (the author) can never fully guarantee that the audience (the recipients) will find affinity, no matter how credible or well-constructed the message may be.

For the purposes of this article, marketing messages will denote any communication with strategic intent between a business entity and its target audience. Leaving poor messaging practices behind, let’s concentrate on why well-thought marketing messages fail. After all, such messages are packaged diligently to inspire, provoke, intrigue and convince their audiences.

In my opinion, there are three possible outcomes for all messages and they rest entirely on the recipient’s state of mind.

The Dead-End Theory

When carefully constructed messages fail to make an impact on a particular section of the audience, it’s always important to note that the problem may not be the message, it may just be the recipient.

There is a decent probability that the message, even when backed by conclusive evidence, does not align with the recipient’s views. The recipient remains completely closed to interpretation or consideration of the message. Despite its merits, the message always fails.

Conversely, the recipient could be completely open to the content without even questioning its authenticity because the message conforms to the recipients existing line of thinking. In both cases, biases operate as filters. Unfortunately, they could serve as an impediment to good campaigns.






The One-Way Runway

In this segment, the message is received, evaluated for credibility and factualness, yet the recipient reconciles to their hardcoded bias on the subject. In such situations, the message is assessed but the outcome remains largely proportionate to the dead-end theory.

This means that, irrespective of message quality, the recipient will follow an established chain of thought. It is possible that they have strong emotional, spiritual or patriotic ties that run contrary to the message.



The Glimmer Of Hope

In these scenarios, recipients examine messages for factualness and authenticity, draw objective opinions and then respond to what seems right for them.

Well constructed messaging works best with this group of recipients, particularly when trying to convert an audience. The premise of good messaging after all is to inspire recipients to act in a way that’s beneficial for the business.

When non-believers evaluate messages with objectivity, they are more likely to convert. Believers on the other hand are reinforced in their decision making, leading to long-term customer value.


With that said, if well-constructed messaging seems to mimic water off a duck’s back how does one successfully infiltrate the first two recipient categories described above?

It is worth noting that in these peculiar cases, using a repositioning strategy may offer some respite. For more on that, please refer to my article -“Repositioning The Competition“. This may not be guaranteed to change all minds, but case studies do indicate that the practice has met with some success.

By repositioning, we attack established schools of thought subtly by displaying the competition in new light. A position that’s consistent with what patrons already consider to be true. We want them to think about it a little. Little enough to give our product or service a try without the need for a hard sell.



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