We talk about victories often and a lot – we are happy with the success of the campaigns, business results, personal and professional achievements.
However, failure, like any other measure, can bring impressive results if properly used. Not in vain, there is a saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
In 2016, Johannes Haushofer, a lecturer at Princeton University, posted a CV of failures on his website. Here he wrote down all the job positions, merits, and awards that he was trying to get but received a negative answer every time. Professor concludes his presentation: “This CV is unlikely to be complete – it was written from memory and probably omits a lot of stuff. So if it’s shorter than yours, it’s likely because you have better memory, or because you’re better at trying things than me.”
As we might expect, this lecturer’s presentation received a great amount of attention and was praised for originality, courage, and ability to turn his failures into victories. However, can such a practice be applied in business communication?
Real-life trends start to slowly move to social networks that are full of perfected reality and the lives of famous people. More and more, they open up about their psychological health problems, raise sexuality questions or simply laugh at their mistakes. This can be also seen in the Lithuanian stand-up stage and initiatives such as Nebegėda or Fuckup Nights. The latter project is spread in 86 countries and professionals from different backgrounds gather here to share inspiring failure stories.
It is not easy to talk about failures, but it does help to build closer relationships – with the loved ones, colleagues, potential buyers or consumers. And courage together with the appropriate means to publicly admit failure, are often rewarded.
One such example is the Domino’s Pizza campaign back in 2009 when a renewing brand decided to regain market share by publicly accepting criticism and promising to change. The chain launched an advertising campaign, where offensive customer letters were read, focus group recordings were translated, and chefs who accepted this criticism admitted that offended dishes from Domino’s Pizza need to be improved.
Despite the differing views, this campaign reached its goal: in one quarter the sales of Domino’s Pizza went up by 14.3% – this was one of the biggest leaps in the market.
The public disgrace used by Domino’s Pizza is nowadays fairly popular entertainment content: famous people read malicious messages addressed to them on TV shows or review them on social networks. While this is also a way to attract attention to cyberbullying, the popular Mean Tweets phenomenon is also used in the communication of commercial brands. One of them is Carlsberg beer, standing out with its bold tone.
Truth is that if you want to share your failure story with the audience, such dramatic scenarios are not always necessary. One example of the synergies that can be received from a success and failure story is the recently in Lithuania discussed CityBee campaign Pija, pasilik! (Pija, stay!).
Many have probably wondered where to see failure here: Pija decided to leave the company. Most employees who leave companies today are still viewed as enemies and their decision to leave is seen as a defeat of an organisation. But the CityBee team looked at the situation rationally and seized it especially creatively.
Another ingenious example happened last year – fast food restaurant KFC managed an unprecedented crisis in the United Kingdom when hundreds of restaurants were left without chicken due to logistical problems. In the blink of an eye, the KFC team decided to apologize and admit its failure, and they did it very boldly.
A full-page ad, printed in the newspapers featured an empty KFC chicken bucket on a red background and an anagram FCK on its restaurant name. “A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out their way to find we were closed,” the ad said.
And the courage paid off – in the same year, at the Cannes Lions advertising awards, this apology won a Gold Lion award in Print and Publishing category.
Maybe our time has come to start talking about failures?