Towards the last few months of 2012, there were a cou­ple of inter­est­ing blogs on HBR by Jeff Stibel which strongly rec­om­mends those who have failed. In Why I Hire Peo­ple Who Fail and For Pres­i­dent, I Want the Guy Who’s Failed Jeff wants us to change our out­look on fail­ure and think of it as a very desir­able trait. Are those build­ing teams and recruit­ing hear­ing this? Should we top our LinkedIn pro­files with “my top 10 exper­i­ments that failed”? Has the brave new world set in yet? Are we ready to let Franken­stein back into the genetic engi­neer­ing lab?

The beauty of Franken­stein as a work of lit­er­a­ture lay in the myr­iad fail­ures it pointed at (If you haven’t read it yet, read it!). The abun­dant flaws in all of its char­ac­ters were laden with learn­ings for read­ers. Vic­tor Franken­stein, the cre­ator of the ‘mon­ster’, is so dis­il­lu­sioned by the ugli­ness of his crea­ture, that he falls severely ill. And later while cre­at­ing a female mate for his crea­ture, Vic­tor real­izes the risk of unleash­ing a race of 8-foot tall and sav­age giants on mankind. When Vic­tor finally dies on the ship, the crea­ture laments the fall of his cre­ator and lists the lat­ter in his long list of vic­tims. The fal­lac­ies of the cre­ator, the crea­ture and those that abhorred the crea­ture based on his looks forms the back­bone of this book, which was itself an exper­i­ment and widely regarded as the first work of sci­ence fic­tion. The book, a mas­ter­piece in sev­eral ways, was ini­tially received with much dis­dain by crit­ics and even led its authoress Mary Shelly to say “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?

While the world of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing (mostly) does not deal with the hideous, it can some­times be plagued with errors of judge­ment or atten­tion. So what is it that we learnt from some of these mis­takes we made in the last year and how is it that we can avoid them? While some of the ref­er­ences are obvi­ous, I have tried to not use any brand names (Jeff might want them though!).

Social media goof up of the year would be a twit­ter cam­paign that goes by the hash­tag #<brand name>Stories. Before I went up to speak at the inter-school debates, my team would always warn me against throw­ing vague and open ended-questions at the audi­ence like “what are you think­ing today”. I was told this greatly reduces the chances of pub­lic humil­i­a­tion. Now with hash­tags that are expected to gen­er­ate brand sto­ries are we invit­ing the devil in to the buf­fet din­ner? Is it safer to exper­i­ment with low-risk and more spe­cific hash­tags, espe­cially if you are not in the busi­ness of sav­ing pup­pies? There were sev­eral other social media cam­paigns that also thought us not to use nat­ural dis­as­ters or mass move­ments for cam­paigns e.g. “This storm blows but free ship­ping doesn’t  or “Mil­lions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard about our new spring collection”.

The world of blog­ging saw one of the world’s largest PR firms offer an apol­ogy for run­ning a pro-retail out­let brand blog by mak­ing it appear like an inde­pen­dent review of a happy cou­ple on the move in their RV. Be hon­est about where you push your mar­ket­ing and PR spend so read­ers know the extent of your influ­ence in the dig­i­tal space. A great exam­ple would be Ray Gallon’s full dis­clo­sure para­graph at the bot­tom of his review of Adobe Tech­Comm Suite 4.

Though it didn’t tech­ni­cally hap­pen in 2012 (but in Decem­ber 2011) the email mar­ket­ing mis­take of an employee of America’s largest local met­ro­pol­i­tan news­pa­per saw an email meant for 300 peo­ple who ended their sub­scrip­tion being sent to its 8 mil­lion sub­scribers instead. Many of the 8 mil­lion sub­scribers were hurt they were not offered a sim­i­lar sub­scrip­tion! An unfor­tu­nate human error did you say?  Could it per­haps have been averted by tool intervention?

The SEO indus­try was abuzz with Google intro­duc­ing many changes to tighten the screws on black-hat tech­niques and sev­eral busi­nesses burnt their fin­gers in terms of faulty link-building and key­word stuff­ing. What new changes will Google make this year and are mar­keters still aware of their pos­si­bly black-hat search mar­ket­ing tech­niques? And now with the launch of Face­book Graph Search, experts seem to dif­fer on its poten­tial for marketers.

In Mary Shelly’s book, Vic­tor Franken­stein warns Robert Wal­ton, “learn from my mis­eries, and do not seek to increase your own.” With more avenues for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing invest­ments, will we also have newer avenues for future dis­as­ters or have we learnt enough from the past? Will there be a 2013 list of top 10 dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing disasters?