How NOT to run a content marketing campaign: a step-by-step guide

12 min

Most marketers want to achieve success in all that they do.

At the helm of social media, they strive to take the thorough approach. First, they know they must build up a loyal following, and so they engage with their communities, compose interesting tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates. They get out there with a camera and start photographing their company’s products being used in all sorts of ways, and from there engage in a measured and thoughtful Instagram campaign.

How-to videos on YouTube are created by the dozen, answering some of their audience’s most pressing questions and addressing all those pain points that are cropping up on Reddit and Twitter and other online forums.

And when it comes to blogging, well – the research and the effort that a determined marketer puts into crafting the perfect post that not only informs the reader through the delivery of immediately actionable tips, but entertains in a delightful, humoros and memorable way is second to none.

Before they know it, they’ve got a following numbering in the hundreds, then the thousands, and are well on track to start creeping into the hundreds of thousands perhaps just a few months down the line. And all this extra exposure is delivering results. Sales are going up. Profit is going up. Business is booming and it’s time to move into a bigger office.

Yes, these are the goals of most marketers.

Not all marketers are created equal

But let’s stop there for a moment.

This is the 21st Century, and I feel as if I am making a terrible, perhaps even disdainful, assumption about the wants, needs and personal goals of marketers around the globe.

For we are not all the same. Each and every one of us is completely different. And I like to think that we live in a world that celebrates diversity, and it’s not just tolerance, but actively accommodating towards the differences that we each as individuals embrace.

And so I was actually very disheartened to discover the damning imbalance of available content on the web concerning the ambitions of content marketers. See for yourself – just type “content marketing campaigns” into Google and take a look at what comes up.

How to Structure a Killer Content Marketing Campaign”, “10 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Campaigns”, “How Structure Content Marketing Campaigns that Actually Increase Demand”, “The 30 Most Genius Content Marketing Examples of 2015”.

There’re pages and pages of this stuff – and I have to say that I’m appalled. What a despicably vulgar assumption it s that all content marketers want to learn how to do their jobs better. Where’s the diversity? The balance? The equilibrium? Indeed, where’s the content that has been crafted for the purpose of helping those marketers who want to a make pig’s ear of everything they touch, and banish the companies they represent into abject obscurity and bankruptcy?

Well, dear reader, here’s my effort to redress the balance. I strive to be egalitarian in all that I do, and so here’s my contribution towards the formation of a better world, where content marketers who don’t aspire to success aren’t ignored, but celebrated, aided and encouraged in all the blunders they’ve been put here to make.

How not to run a content marketing campaign


1) Have no goals

Defining clear goals leads only to great content marketing success – so ignore these altogether. In fact, do the opposite. The logic is simple – if your goal is to lose weight, then healthy eating and exercise is the way to go. Similarly, if the goal of a content marketer is to drive more downloads of a white-paper, then he/she will create teaser-content in the form of blogs and videos etc. to entice the user to find out more by “downloading here”.

However, in order to ensure that you fail to achieve anything, simply don’t establish for yourself anything to achieve. Forget the white-paper, and write a blog about the fried bacon and sausages you had for breakfast instead – zero downloads are practically guaranteed.

2) Regurgitate tired titles and content

The irony of this very blog post isn’t lost on me, dear reader. As I highlighted in the introduction, the internet is already brimming with blogs and articles delivering tips on “How to Run Killer Content Marketing Campaigns” and such like. Indeed, even when I type the exact title of this post into Google – “How Not To Run A Content Marketing Campaign” – the SERP only returns articles pertaining to the contrary of the search query.

As such, this title that I have chosen is indeed a competitive one, and the blog post itself decidedly tackles content marketing strategies from a different angle. This isn’t the way to fail at content marketing.

One of the greatest things that readers despise is a company that persistently offers reams and reams of content that has already been flogged to death by thousands of firms and bloggers before it. If I had wanted this article to get buried beneath the piles and piles of existing gumpf that already tackles the subject every which way you can think of, a more appropriate title would have been simply “Running Content Marketing Campaigns”.

Now, that’s a title that has all the makings of an epic fail. It’s boring beyond belief, there’re no “power words”, no “emotive words”, it’s beautifully vague, and its value-proposition was exhausted probably as far back as 2012.

How can you make sure your headlines are missing the mark just as dramatically? Well, a great tool for ensuring that your titles are rubbish and unappealing is the Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule. Simply type your headline into the provided field, and the Analyzer will assign it a score from 0-100. Aim for something below 25. It’s not easy, but keep experimenting – the lower your score, the more doomed your article will be.

Check it out – “Running Content Marketing Campaigns” got me a sweet 20. Boo-yah!!


I’m proud of that.

3) Ignore SEO

Keywords schmeywords. When content marketers want to help Google – and, by extension, potential users – find a blog post that they’ve written, they naturally ensure that there’s a pleasing litter of keywords and phrases scattered throughout the text.

Once again, the irony is the elephant in this article that you’re reading right now. For this of course is a piece about “content marketing”, and, according to my word processor, I’ve already managed to slot that little gem into this post 15 times, including in the title and in a H2. Now, that will certainly help search engines – though I am ashamed to admit it – direct users to what I’ve written.

Keywords are important for SEO – so don’t use them. If you’re writing an article about raspberry jam, what your company sells, then take great pains to ensure that you don’t mention the stuff anywhere. In fact, make no mentions of either raspberries or jam, for you might find your post sneaking into the SERPs of a few slightly more discerning searchers.

Talk about strawberry conserves by all means – especially if that’s what your competitor sells across the road. Help users find that glorious product instead of your silly jam.

Advanced tactic – strictly for pros

There is, however, a slightly more advanced tactic for those marketers who really want to not only fail at content marketing, but actually damage their company’s online discoverability much more profoundly – keyword stuffing.

Good keyword stuffing will almost certainly get your website penalized by Google Panda, and, if you’re lucky, might even get the site removed from Google’s index altogether, rendering your site all but indiscoverable for users the world over!

So, raspberry jam pack the words “raspberry”, “jam”, and “raspberry jam” as many raspberry jamming times as possible into your raspberry jam articles about raspberries, jam and raspberry jam, making it absolutely impossible for Google to miss the fact that you’re keyword stuffing the living daylights out of “raspberry jam”, “jam” and “raspberries” into your raspberry jam content concerning all things raspberry, jam and raspberry jam.

It’s a move that wouldn’t have helped you in the 90s, but, these days, keyword stuffing pretty much comes with a Google Penalty guarantee. Go for it.

4) Be rude to your customers on social media

Raspberry jam.

These days, when a customer has a complaint, they very often turn to their favorite social network to air their grievances – and here’s a perfect opportunity to do untold damage to your brand.

Engaging with customers and followers on social media is of course an important part of the content marketer’s job. Participating in conversations online is a great way to ensure that relationships are built with new and existing customers. But who says those relationships can’t be turbulent and filled with animosity?

If a customer isn’t happy with something, then they’re clearly wrong, and should be told in no uncertain terms. Rather than inventing an example, I think it’s only right that I here pay homage to one of the few true masters of this extraordinary technique, which, when executed with aplomb, is a failsafe route to the disaster you’re trying to achieve.

In 2013, Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, was featured in an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. After the foul-mouthed chef abandoned owners Samy and Amy, claiming that they were too difficult to work with (Irony? Is that you again?), the couple turned to their Facebook Page to defend themselves against some of the unsavoury comments from users that appeared during and after the show was aired.

Now, a good content marketer might have been polite, accepting of their mistakes, and made some sort of promise to rectify. However, Samy and Amy are true champions of bad marketing. For your inspiration, here is how they handled the situation.

They didn’t start off too well, to be fair – their first post expressing far too much thanks to engender true devastation:


But it wasn’t long before they upped their game:


That’s better. And then this:

Image source: buzzfeed

Hell yeah! Look at that for a Facebook comment! Absolutely beautiful. Capital letters, the lot. It gets better and better (full story on Buzzfeed), and eventually Sam and Amy took up the battle on Reddit and Yelp as well.

The lesson here is simple – if you want to make a hash of your reputation (Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro is now closed ), don’t limit yourself to being rude, aggressive and outlandish on just one network. Hunt down your followers on them all, for you’re much more likely to expand your reach and offend many more of your would-be customers.

5) Create offensive material

The last tip that I want to give you here’s to just go all out and create offensive promotional material in the first place.

Don’t hold back. There’re many disciplines of bigotry, for instance, that you can experiment with – misogyny, homophobia, ageism, racism, you name it! Whatever it takes to alienate key demographics is worth the effort for complete brand disgrace.

And don’t be afraid to post insensitive material, too, especially ones that reduce centuries-old humanitarian struggles to the sporting rivalry of ball games.

Check out what this genius came up with, for instance. When the American Football team the Seattle Seahawks won a place in the Super Bowl for the second year running, one content marketer couldn’t resist opportunity for an epic fail. In this highly-crafted meme that was sent out on Twitter, the marketer decided to compare the Seahawks strive for sporting glory to the equal rights struggle that African-Americans have lived, fought and died for spanning centuries.


A round of applause please… Look at the effort that’s gone into that. Sensational.

Beautifully Photoshopped, the typography styled with subtle yet powerful emphasis on the emotive words of Martin Luther King Junior’s quote. The rain, the tears, the desperation, the struggle to win a game of football – it’s all there. And there’s no messing about with the text of the tweet either – three words and a hashtag that squarely aims the middle finger right at the heart of everything that is so important and devastating about race conflict.

This content marketer really brought his A-game to the pitch with that one, and you really are going to struggle to match the ignominy with such grace and subtlety in your own efforts.

So perhaps a more ”in-yer-face” approach might be more suited to you.

You may, for instance, achieve the results you desire by going down the route of good old-fashioned sexism – and why not throw a bit of body-shaming in for good measure?

Here’s how to do it:


This one roused some great, incensed reactions from the Twitterverse, confirming that an epic fail had been gloriously achieved. The Huffington Post lists some good ones:


If you think IHOP’s tweet is too good to be true, then unfortunately I’m going to have to confirm that it is.

The brand is clearly a rookie at bad content marketing, and so, instead of winding its followers up even more, it took to apologizing, thusly saving some of its reputation.


Needless to say, offering such humble regret at what was otherwise one of the most pristine content marketing fails that I’ve ever seen was a big mistake if the brand really expected to lose serious following, reputation and sales.

So, let this be a final lesson to all you would-be bad content marketers – be confident in your cock-ups, stand by them, anger the crowd, and, under no circumstances do you ever apologise for your good work. Successful failure will thereby be guaranteed.

If you’re implementing all of the above tips and are still experiencing a decent ROI on your marketing efforts, one final suggestion is to resort to displaying ads for brutal and offensive pornography, pay-day lenders, or Justin Bieber on your website – that should do the trick.

Hope this helps and a fairer, more balanced and diverse content marketing world has been achieved: raspberry jam, raspberry jam, raspberry jam!

Back to you

What do you reckon? Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinion. I’d love to know what you think.

John Waldron
John Waldron
Writer with markITwrite who regularly writes on lifestyle and technology. He is also a fiction writer who has penned a number of short stories, play scripts, and stories for children. He is the author of the foraging blog, First Time Foragers: Recipes and Stories for Beginners. He has a First-Class Honours Degree in English with Creative Writing and an MA in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth, Cornwall.