Now that the focus in many industries is on data and behavioral marketing, marketing departments are increasingly better able to pinpoint areas in which they can improve. With the right data, not only can you determine your product’s demographic but now you can discover when and why your customers make that ultimate decision to purchase. That being said, just because you discover what’s wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should share that nugget of wisdom with your consumer. Take Mattel’s recent faux pas as a case in point.

kids-hot-wheels-partyMattel came to the conclusion that sales of their toy car lines were flat because mothers “didn’t understand how much fun these cars were.”   I’m sure anyone would agree that toy cars are, primarily, “boy toys” and females may not be able to understand the fun inherent in rolling toy cars around the room, reenacting car chases and crashes, which could prevent them from purchasing these toys for their sons. This isn’t due to any malice towards the brand or type of toy. It’s simply a mother making a purchasing decision based on their belief of the type of toy their child would like to play with, and toy cars aren’t high on that list.

Armed with this knowledge, Mattel wisely began a marketing strategy in which they set out to educate mothers on how fun toy cars really are for their kids. In their endeavor, however, they made the mistake of revealing their discovery to the very people they blamed…mothers.

Of course, mothers didn’t particularly like being blamed for a company’s poor sales because they just didn’t “get it” and began taking to the blogosphere and social media expressing their anger and telling Mattel that they should make better products instead of blaming people for poor sales.

In the end, Mattel’s brilliant use of big data to identify a barrier and great strategy designed to break through it backfired because someone decided to tell the barrier it existed and, well, the barrier didn’t like it all that much.

Marketing should certainly be data-driven, targeted and relevant. With all of the data available your marketing can be super-charged to get big results with minimal expense. In the past, a company could only get a general idea of the problem and then had to cast a wide net in their attempt to fix it. Now, the net need not be so big to catch the right fish….

Just don’t tell the fish you’re coming.

Sara Callahan | Carter West Public Relations




by Sara Callahan