Failure is Not a Dirty Word

Failure sucks. There’s no doubt about it. Nobody advertises how often they fail. Businesses promote success, advancement, and progress. When you were a kid you came home bragging about an A or a B, but no mention of the D or F until your parents saw the report card. Then you had some esplaining to do, Lucy.

We were trained as children that failure is bad and success is good. But failure was only defined in black in white terms. Getting an F on your report card was failing. Getting a D wasn’t good, but at least you weren’t a failure.

When we learned a new subject or were taught a sport, we studied and practiced to get better and smarter. In reality, we failed many times, but because it was called something else, such as practice, we didn’t feel like failures.

Our failures are really learning opportunities, but as a society we do our best to cover up failure. Everyone is afraid of being seen as a loser. In the world of marketing and advertising we make sure that every great feature about the product or service we are promoting is front and center. When ad agencies pitch new business they show their best work. Go on any discussion forum about marketing and you’ll find lots of questions inquiring about tactics that have worked, or best practices. I don’t ever recall someone asking to hear about failed advertising efforts.

The truth is that ad agencies and clients fail in their marketing efforts every day. The high profile failures, like New Coke, are held up for everyone to ridicule. Why not use our experiences for learning rather than criticizing? If marketers start sharing those efforts that don’t turn out so well we might all learn a thing or two.

We created a page on our website titled “Did it work?” We’ve shared examples of our work that had great results, shaky results, and results that might get you fired. If we can get past the fear of sharing our failures with each other, we’ll all benefit in the form of more knowledge.

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