Avoid Embarrassing Marketing Gaffes: How to Communicate Effectively

In 1971, Ford introduced the Pinto to the Brazilian market, aiming to emulate the success it experienced in the United States. Its two-door subcompact car was named after the pinto horse, which is distinguished by patches of white along its coat. When the Pinto failed to sell in Brazil, Ford’s market analysts examined the situation, shocked to learn that Pinto is Brazilian slang for “male genitals.” Ouch!

Similarly, when expanding its marketing campaign to Mexico, the American Dairy Association accidentally translated “Got Milk?” to “Are You Lactating?” I’m sure you can pinpoint why Spanish speakers weren’t compelled to purchase more milk.

While these are extreme (but real!) marketing blunders, they’re prime examples of the potential mishaps that stem from miscommunication. When coordinating a marketing campaign with multiple parties, it’s critical to keep everyone on the same page.


Align content marketers, graphic designers, and other brand ambassadors with your greater marketing vision. Failure to effectively communicate your ideas results in a disjointed and inefficient campaign.

Consider these 5 tips to collaborate effectively:

  1. Establish a framework of communication. According to the Harvard Business Review, not all messages are created equal. This means that some messages will be understood immediately while others must be reinforced. A framework of communication ensures that you consistently deliver messages to keep your team in the loop. Consider an Inspire/Educate/Reinforce framework.

Inspire your marketing team and partners by sharing significant accomplishments, vision updates, and new initiatives. Highlight these goals and how they benefit customers. The more you inspire, the more focused and excited team members become. Focusing on inspiration allows you to boost morale while subtly reinforcing clear communication.

Educate by explaining your strategic decisions and how these contribute to the end goal. For instance, if partnering with content marketing experts, explain how the content they’re creating fits into your greater marketing vision. You’d be surprised at the major impact such minute details create.

Reinforce ideas to increase understanding and clarify any questions. Since colleagues and partners are likely working on other projects as well, reinforcing your ideas ensures that no detail is forgotten. By utilizing the Inspire/Educate/Reinforce framework, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you’ve communicated those ideas effectively.

  1. Use analogies. People communicate in different ways, so find more than one way to present your marketing ideas. The easiest way to accomplish this is through analogies, which illustrate your goal. Analogies distill ideas to the bare bones of the concept, allowing you to get meaning across in as few words as possible. This eliminates opportunities for miscommunication and allows you to make major points without overwhelming the listener.
  2. Set expectations. Don’t micromanage your partners, but communicate what you expect. Establishing clear expectations gives people a standard to live up to. Of course, be realistic and flexible when setting expectations. Does your team respond better to long-term deadlines? Or do you find they’re more productive with immediate benchmarks to guide the way? Determine how your team works and functions best, remembering to adjust expectations when you modify your vision or tweak marketing goals.
  3. Assemble the right team. Thanks to digital technology, physical offices have lost their boundaries. More and more marketers are partnering with players across different cities, states, and even countries. At Content Equals Money, we partner with businesses and corporations across the globe to provide top-shelf content. Our clients work with us regardless of physical distance because they understand the importance of assembling the right team.
    No matter how effectively you communicate your marketing ideas, they’ll never come to fruition unless you’re partnered with the right people. Social and collaborative technologies make it easier than ever to work with people who aren’t in your physical office.
  4. Focus on human relationships. Effective leaders focus on personal relationships to make things happen. To grow your business and meaningfully spread your message, be prepared to create a strong, professional relationship with your business partner. Be intentional in communicating and remember that you don’t have to “talk business” 24/7.

While these techniques will enhance communication, remember to avoid mistakes that could hinder marketing efforts. For example, it is human nature to avoid difficult discussions, but marketing leaders should be prepared to handle difficult conversations.

Be upfront with any problems or negative feedback. Failure to address such issues allows small problems to snowball into major ones. Instead, be prepared to talk about both the good and the bad of your marketing campaigns so that positive changes and improvement can be made.

Remember, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to communication. Experiment and see what drives the best results for your team.

At Content Equals Money, we experience a plethora of communication styles from our clients – and we’re thrilled to work with every one of them. We’ve found that a clear framework of communication, proper analogies, understood expectations, the assembly of the right team, and a focus on human relationship keep everyone on the same page – and keep everyone happy.

What are your thoughts? How do you communicate with your team?