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Resource Center » 10 Places You Do NOT Want to be Caught Advertising

Appealing to potential customers' emotions can have a powerful upside but there are pitfalls to avoid.

The most successful advertising speaks to our basic need for instant gratification. If an ad makes people think: "I want that. I want it now. I have to have it," then it is a success because people will make a conscious effort to remember your brand, your product, and your name. It's exceedingly tricky to appeal to your audience's emotions in a tasteful manner, and countless businesses have learned this from trial and error. If you strive to enhance your company's image by targeting customer emotions, then you have to know what's taboo and where to be cautious in your approach. One seemingly innocent slip could land your business in a heap of trouble! While you're trying your hand in buzz marketing or viral advertising, don't fall victim to these targeted marketing misfires and/or unsolicited bad practices:

Porn Industry

It's a gross understatement to say that pornography is a moneymaker; as a matter of fact, it is a multi-billion-dollar business. This sounds like a tempting market to tap into, right? WRONG! There's no doubt that you would reach a huge audience but you would also alienate a huge audience by associating your name with porn. For most people, porno is a dirty little secret and any product that's mentally associated with it will have negative connotations. Avoid advertising in the adult sector unless your products are sex-related, and err on the side of caution even then. Offended customers are unlikely to purchase your goods or services!

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Marketing Directly to Children

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly controversial to gear marketing campaigns toward children. Remember when the arrival of the Sears Wish Book was a cause for great family excitement? This is no longer the standard technique. Advertising has become much more overt and aggressive in recent years, and the growing negativity surrounding such advertising has potential to end in scandal. So, what's the alternative to marketing to kids? Responsible marketing. Target parents with children instead of gearing your campaign exclusively toward youngsters who don't understand the power of persuasion in advertisements. It's possible to make an ad that excites children and compels parents, but it is more difficult to accomplish. Whatever you do, be honest and never market potentially hazardous products as kid-safe.

Marketing Adult Products to Teens

Cigarette manufacturers have tried to portray smoking as cool and glamorous since the 1950s, and this concept was most easily marketed to impressionable teens desperate to appear older and worldlier. Tobacco companies sometimes used cartoon characters in their ads, targeted the after school television time slots, or advertised in teen magazines aimed at young teens. These sketchy practices may have worked in the past, but today this is a sure-fire way to attract lawsuits and negative attention in the press. Implement ethical marketing into your campaigns and stay away from deceptive advertisements that could put your company in jeopardy.

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In-School Advertising

Sometimes corporations will offer funding to struggling schools that are trying to make ends meet. The first forms of in-school advertising were local business support banners on the fence around the sports field, but today, the aggressive nature of corporate advertising is rapidly becoming controversial. School organizations and education associations may be able to bend this rule a bit because their work is directly related to assisting schools. If you do choose to market yourself in a school environment, then don't be overly promotional. Here's an example: instead of printing coupons and flashy slogans onto notebooks you donate to students, simply print "donated by Your Business Name" along with your logo. People will still see your brand name but they won't feel like they're on a used car lot!

Subliminal Advertising

Subliminal advertising was everywhere in the 1970s. When the scandal broke and the scam was exposed, the public was horrified at the blatant manipulation of the subliminal messages. Even though subliminal advertising messages are still occasionally used, they are often exposed and ridiculed. Unless you're a hypnotist, you're not going to get very far with subliminal messages in the marketing industry. Face it, your brand is in serious trouble if you have to resort to mind control in order to market yourself.

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Overt Product Placement in Movies

Product placement is very common because big-budget movies need revenue to produce the quality that audiences demand. Subtle placement can be observed in nearly every movie, whether it's a clothing ad on a bus station wall or a perfume display in a department store. This type of advertising is both acceptable and effective as long as the focus of the scene is not on the product. Overt placement will be panned by critics and jeered by the public.


Privacy laws are becoming more restrictive and telemarketing has been a direct casualty. There are over 50 million phone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s "Do Not Call" list, which proves that people feel telemarketing is annoying, ineffective, and risky. Due to countless scams and identity theft cases, people have become especially unwilling to accept phone calls from people they don't know. You have slim chances of reaching an interested buyer from cold calling these days, and people may have a negative association with your brand if you call them while they're eating dinner or relaxing after a tough day at work. People aren't as receptive to the telemarketer approach as they may have been 20 years ago.

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Email Spam

When the internet first made its way into homes and offices, spamming was a great way to get your product noticed. Back then, people were much more likely to click on a link in an email (or even to open an unfamiliar email) and there were very few tools in place to prevent emails from getting through to inboxes. However, with modern anti-spam laws, spam-killing blacklists, evolving spam filters, and the countless amounts of daily spam hitting the average inbox, there is simply no point to advertising via spam anymore. Building an opt-in mailing list is a much better option, and then you'll actually be providing your clients with information they'll WANT to read.

Free Program Downloads

It is a terrible idea to attach a browser redirect or a product ad to a free download like a screensaver or a ringtone file (it is even illegal in some cases, although it's difficult to prosecute). This type of advertising is unwanted and generally abhorred by consumers! Honestly, the benefits of a spam attempt like this are few and rarely worth the effort. People are now wiser to "free download" scams and won't hesitate to report your company if you engage in such an activity. Is it worth it? You decide.

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Unsolicited Fax Advertising

Fax spam is annoying and costly to the recipient because paper and ink must be purchased to receive faxes. Unrequested special offers and exclusive deals don't have the same impact if customers don't care about what you're selling, and you're taking an enormous risk by marketing yourself through spammy faxes. Needless to say, fax spam is still considered spam and won't bring any credibility to your business name. Think twice before advertising this way! Instead of sending random faxes, hand deliver your hot coupons to your clients when you call on them. You'll make a bigger impact if you print discounts on reusable promo items like travel tumblers or tote bags, and people will be more receptive.

Article By Bubba

Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on Google+.

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