Mistakes Are Opportunities

At this time of year, the air is thick with predictions about the year ahead. Most of them are hot air, but here’s one that we’re 100% confident in: you will make mistakes in the year ahead. And here’s another: so will we.

What can we do—as marketers, leaders and humans—to minimize the damage (and maximize the benefits) of our inevitable mistakes? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Our topic this time was inspired by this cheeky new t-shirt from Tesla—a reference to the awkward broken window moment during the Cybertruck launch event. The self-deprecating humour feels both humble and brave. An elegant way to take ownership of an embarrassing flub.

  • It isn’t just Elon. We all make mistakes. But owning up to them is innately uncomfortable for all kinds of reasons.
  • This discomfort is often magnified in a professional context where most of us are afraid of appearing incompetent in front of our colleagues and higher-ups.
  • But as hard as it is, owning our work mistakes is good for the business. It’s an opportunity to boost trust, demonstrate integrity and nurture a culture of transparency and risk-taking.
  • As marketers, publicly copping to our brand’s mistakes is also good for business. It can actually bring customers closer.
  • We love this example from Carlsberg, whose recent brand refresh was built on a frank admission that they’d been paying too much attention to being the biggest and not enough to being the best.
  • KFC’s FCK bucket is another stellar example of turning a mistake into an opportunity.

  • These campaigns work because refusing to admit your mistakes isn’t actually a sign of strength. In fact, the opposite is true: “People who won’t admit they were wrong are, by definition, psychologically fragile.”
  • As a leader, owning your mistakes can actually boost your credibility and create deeper engagement with your team.
  • We like this simple three-step framework for leaders who need to take ownership when something hasn’t gone well: accept responsibility, mitigate the damage and clearly identify the lessons you’ve learned.
  • If you want to take it one step further, you can always emulate Tesla and create a t-shirt of your own.

Wise Words

  • We like Oscar’s take on the subject. So let’s give him the last word.

Issue #85
Jan 19, 2020

Further Reading