6 Real-Life Marketing Horror Stories from the Drift Team

By Sarah Haberman

From gothic stories to creature features, the psychological to the supernatural, cosmic horror to comedy horror, and everything in between — nowadays, you can find a horror story for almost anything.

But, whether it’s the classics you were forced to read in high school or the latest Halloween flick, these stories don’t hold a candle to true horror.

That’s right: I’m talking about the stomach-drop feeling of sending a premature email to a new contact, the terrifying realization that you wrote the wrong time on an event invitation, or (worst of all) the sinking fear when your computer update hits…minutes before an important meeting.

Luckily, all of these scenarios are hypothetical for us. But it is true that every marketer has their own horror story — no matter how big or small. So, in celebration of spoooooky season, I’m sharing six real-life marketing horror stories sourced from our team at Drift.

Ready for a bit of a fright? Let’s get spooky 👻

1. Invasion of the Wrong URL

Sometimes the link that you’re sending…might not be what you think it is.

“In my first marketing role, I would send emails to millions of people with just the click of a button.

So, you can imagine the knot in my stomach after I had sent an email with links to the wrong landing page. With each email attributed to $10K+ revenue, this was a biiiiig mistake. Luckily, I was able to set up a redirect quickly and save a little of that revenue.”

– Marketing Ops

2. Curse of the Pre-Recorded Tape

Most people think on-demand recording is the safe way out. That’s not always the case.

“We held a virtual event at the end of 2020 during COVID. Virtual event platforms were still up-and-coming, and our team had spent countless hours pre-recording and editing a four-hour event to be aired ‘live.’

Something went wrong with the upload and the video started to go fuzzy about two hours in. In an attempt to delay the event and fix the video, we had to pay extra for a speaker to go live. But, when we were able to get back on track, the video was still not 100% right, and at 4:30 PM when the event was supposed to end, the platform automatically shut down and kicked everyone out.

We had two sessions to go through, one of which included a paid speaker. The comments towards and ridicule of the event were not a great way to end an already tumultuous year.”

– Event Marketing

3. Altered States of Ankles

Body horror and bodily injury are the same in that they’re both inconvenient. Ok, maybe the first one is a little more than inconvenient.

“I had the responsibility of overseeing our company’s booth at a large convention. The night before the big day, I decided it would be a good idea to play soccer with my friends. About three minutes into the game, I managed to forget how to be an athlete and ended up with a grade three sprain, rendering me about as mobile as a lawn gnome.

Fast-forward to the next morning, and I found myself contemplating life from a chair. The art of booth setup, it turns out, is significantly less glamorous when you can’t stand.

I frantically called for reinforcements, and much to my relief, I had a team who was more than willing to step up to the plate. Picture us, the motley crew, attempting to assemble the booth (a pretty large one) like a ragtag group who had just discovered IKEA instructions. Thankfully, we got it done.

Well, they got it done.”

– Brand Designer

4. Wifi Out

If the lights go out, grab a flashlight. But what can you do when your wifi does the same?

“My scariest marketing experience was probably being live on a webinar and having my wifi go entirely dark on me because someone hit a pole in my neighborhood. I had to cancel the entire webinar because of that.

Then, when I went to send the apology to those who had registered and attended, I hit them with a ‘Hey {{First_Name}}’ in the body of the email. In the end, I got roasted by 15+ people.”

– Demand Generation

5. The Unexpected Visitors at the Booth

A knock on the door at night is scary, but running an overwhelmed event booth is even scarier.

“During my first job out of college, my company had a booth at a giant industry trade show in Miami. We got way more booth traffic than anticipated (which was great!), but we ran out of everything — from handouts to swag — before the first day had ended.

There were still several days left of the conference, so I had to call every print shop I could find in Miami until I found one that would print us more booth supplies on the spot. My colleagues in Miami had to go pick them up from this random print shop late that night, so they could re-stock the booth before breakfast started the next day.

There’s also the time we brought the wrong-sized booth to a conference, but that’s a story for another day.”

– Revenue Marketing

6. Fall (of the Prize Grill)

Even small heights can be lethal for expensive objects.

“At a prior job, my company sponsored an annual golf tournament attended by customers, partners, and tons of folks within our industry.

The very first year I attended as a marketing volunteer, I was tasked with bringing the raffle prizes inside while the tournament kicked off. As I was wheeling in the grand prize (a Big Green Egg grill), the wheel got caught on the edge of a rubber mat and I watched in slow motion as $1000 of ceramic crashed onto the pavement and broke into a dozen pieces.

All’s well that ends well, and we were able to replace it (shoutout to our event manager for bringing us in under budget), but I have never been more embarrassed in my entire. professional. career. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help, particularly when handling very expensive prizes that weigh almost as much as you. (And don’t assume something is structurally secure just because it’s on wheels!)”

– Customer Marketing

Ok, you got me. Maybe these stories aren’t actually as scary as the books or movies that pop up every Halloween.

But, if there’s anything to be learned from our six marketing horror stories, it’s that, even if you feel horrified in the moment, you’ll come out faster, smarter, and stronger than you were before. And that means you’ll be ready if (or when) the sequel comes along.

Want to share your own marketing horror story with us? Click HERE!