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Posted on 07.17.2018

What You Built Failed … and They Still Came. What Now?

In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, we learned “if you build it, they will come,” right? We’ve also learned recently that if what you built fails, they will still come, and then you’ve got a problem, friend. Your big marketing idea just went from fantastic to flop, and you find yourself instantly in reputation recovery mode. 


In 2017 Prime Day was Amazon’s second biggest shopping day. Yesterday, Amazon’s platform failed, according to reports, almost as soon as Prime Day got underway. While the precious Dogs of Amazon delivered the news, “Sorry, something went wrong on our end," frustrated shoppers were turned away – many taking their complaints to social media. 

The issue was fixed within hours and the world’s largest online retailer said many shoppers were successful despite the glitch, Reuters reports, but the company’s shares were nonetheless down in after-hours trading on a day when the market may have expected a nice upward spike.

Amazon has legions of Prime members who are unlikely to turn away long-term. Nonetheless, what should have been a slam dunk followed by a victory lap for Amazon, to mix metaphors, turned into what must have been a heart in mouth period with rally caps prayerfully turned.

Cuddly brand Build-A-Bear Workshop also suffered promotion-turned-fiasco moments at shopping malls across the country this month when it was unprepared for the massive crowds that turned out in response to its recent Pay Your Age Day. The retailer inexplicably didn’t anticipate the enormous response to its promotion, with many angry parents and tearful children ultimately turned away with no bear. Sad.

In its recovery, Build-A-Bear CEO appeared the next morning on NBC’s Today show to apologize. Customers who were turned away were offered a $15 voucher. And the company has since launched a birthday month program that allows kids to pay their age to build a Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month. Still, that haunting image of crying toddlers exiting the mall bear-less: brutal.

The lesson here is the same as with any event or launch of a new initiative. Consider everything that could go wrong, and plan for it. That’s not being negative; that’s being smart. Build in contingency plans. Think about what recovery would look like, require and cost. And if there are “could go wrong” moments you cannot figure out a way to dress, change your plan.

Lovell Communications’ Engagement Practice provides expertise in external and internal communications to health care clients across the country. If you need a big idea – and a sound plan to launch it – contact us at 615.297.7766.

Dana Coleman is a vice president at Lovell Communications and leads the external and internal communications for Lovell’s Engagement Group.

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