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Surely marketing message disasters happen only to sad little mom and pops run by two guys and a German Shepherd selling plastic garden furniture to consumers living inside the Arctic Circle?

Afraid not, folks. It can happen to anyone. Even you.

Across all the industrialized markets, millions are wasted every year on business communication that doesn't work because the basic message and the thinking behind it is flat-out wrong.

As the Marketing Communications Fire Department, teams of people like me are often called in to extinguish as much of the erroneous thinking as possible, rescue what little there is that isn't charred beyond recognition, then try to make it work as a piece of communication.

And all that without the benefit of 10,000 gallons of thick foam and pressure hoses that could knock an elephant over from 20 yards away. Give me a forest fire any day.

Now. Where's That Message Gone??

Take one of the UK's leading automobile clubs, or “motoring organizations.” It invested seriously big bucks (well, pounds or “quid” as the colloquialism goes) in a wonderfully created and produced advertising campaign based on their vision of mobility in the future.

Its vibrant new marketing director noisily shared her multiple “Eureka!” moments and although nobody else in the client team quite understood the storyboards for the commercials, everyone nodded wisely and agreed that because they couldn't understand it, it must be really clever.

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Suzan St Maur (www.suzanstmaur.com) writes extensively on marketing and business communications and is the author of the widely acclaimed Powerwriting.