GoDaddy once again finds itself in a social media firestorm after releasing an ad that irked its customers and animal rights advocates.
Titled Journey Home, the ad featured a lost puppy making its way home, only to be greeted by the owner with: “I’m so glad you made it home…because I just sold you on this website I built with GoDaddy.” The poor puppy was then shipped out.
The clip was meant to be a parody of Budweiser’s highly successful 2014 Puppy Love commercial, but most viewers didn’t find it humorous. Shortly after the company previewed the Super Bowl ad online, people quickly and furiously aired their disgust on social networks. “Looks like I’ll be pulling all my business from @GoDaddy,” tweeted one customer.“Thanks Go Daddy for making me never want to use your site after seeing your commercial,” added another.
Within 24 hours, the company made the decision not to run the ad during Super Bowl XLIX.
“Our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence,” wrote Blake Irving, GoDaddy’s Chief Executive Officer, in a blog post explaining the company’s decision to pull the Super Bowl ad. “We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear.”
This isn’t the first time GoDaddy has ended up in hot water. For much of its 11-year run as a Super Bowl advertiser, the company has received wide criticism for its sexist, sleazy spots. But that changed last year, when the company opted for something more professional: the story of a woman who quit her day job to become a puppet master.
“2014 marks a new era for GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials," said CMO Barb Rechterman in a statement. “Our new brand of Super Bowl commercials will make it crystal clear what we do and who we stand for.” At that time, the company said that its new approach came “after months of extensive research, customer segmentation analysis, customer surveys and employee input from every corner of the company.”
Journey Home and its epic failure represent a step back for GoDaddy in its efforts to project a more professional brand. But you can’t blame the company for trying a risky campaign: while the Super Bowl attracts millions of viewers, it’s a crowded time for marketers as companies step up their real-time marketing and social media efforts.
GoDaddy’s misstep is a reminder that bold advertising works only if you have a deep understanding of your customers. It also reiterates the importance of ad testing or message testing. Customer engagement can help businesses avoid the costly consequences of bad marketing decisions.
As GoDaddy has once again learned, releasing a risky ad without customer intelligence could upset your customers—which could quickly impact sales. The campaign is also a reminder of who’s truly in the driver’s seat these days: the empowered customer. Today, all it takes is a group of offended customers to ignite a PR firestorm. More than ever, companies need to engage with customers before launching their marketing campaigns to minimize risks and ensure that the right messages are communicated.