What Marketers Can Learn from Snapchat's Colossal Blunder

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversial Snapchat update. It’s caused an outrage all over social media, and there’s a large section of users that have vowed to delete the app and switch to Instagram.

Although over 1.2 million people have signed a petition to reverse the update, Snapchat isn’t backing down. They’ve released a statement saying that they have no intentions of going back to the old Snapchat.

They didn’t just miss the mark. They took off running in the opposite direction. How did they get it so wrong?

They stopped listening to the consumer.

Consumers didn’t ask for an update. They didn’t ask for a massive redesign. When Instagram not only started to blatantly copy Snapchat, but also dip into their market share, the app went into overdrive to find a competitive advantage again. Just when their stock prices were finally on the up, they made this massive blunder.

As marketers, we can take quite a bit away from this whole Snap fiasco. They made the mistake, so now you don’t have to.

1. The consumer is priority #1.

Consumer insights, consumer benefits, consumer this, consumer that seem to pop up in every conversation in the marketing world. And for good reason. The consumer has to remain at the center of every advertising effort. Truth be told, it’s all about them. Without them, you have no business.

It can be easy to think you know what the consumer wants before they even realize they want it, but it can also be easy to be so, so wrong (ahem, Snapchat). By trying to tell the consumer what they want, you’ll just find backlash. People don’t like being told what to do.

Instead of trying to guess, listen to what your target has to say.

2. Don’t be afraid to admit a mistake.

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Instead of taking responsibility, Snapchat is saying that users will “learn to love the update.” I’m sure you can imagine that this isn’t going over too well, because as I mentioned before, people don’t like to be told what to do or what to like or what to want.

When you’ve messed up, the best thing to do is say, “yep, we were wrong, and we’re going to work hard to make it right.” We’ve seen brand after brand make mistakes and try to play it off, and we’ve seen it not work for them. Yet, they’re still doing it.

Consumers appreciate authenticity. Owning up to a mistake and making a change is a whole lot more valuable than trying to cover it up or flat out refusing to do anything to make it right.

3. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Why, oh why did Snapchat have to mess with a good thing? They were finally seeing growth, which is something they had struggled with in the past couple of years. When people are seeing the value in your product, it’s probably not the right time to completely change it.

Exhibit A: Coca-Cola’s New Coke. In 1985, Coke completely changed its product, with absolutely no warning. Dubbed “the worst marketing disaster of all time,” they truly messed up. Consumers liked Coke, and they didn’t ask for a recipe change, but they got one. And they were not happy. Today we enjoy the taste of Original Coke, because they at least did something right - apologized and made a change. But why change the product in the first place? Don’t mess with a good thing.

So, will Snapchat ever go back? Probably not. Should they? Probably. Will we learn from their mistakes? Definitely.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts