Mobile Marketing Platform

Note to marketers: your message is not my command


November 18, 2011


'Always-on' connectivity can backfire.

‘Always-on’ connectivity can backfire.

Some companies can’t tell the difference between ‘always on’ and ‘the right time’.

The ability to “reach” me has never been so easy and so personal but don’t assume that I am open to your message.

For better or worse, smartphones have enabled an “always on” lifestyle. In a cab the other day the driver lamented that he has had four people in the car that spent the entire trip typing on their phones in silence. “What ever happened to people talking to each other?”

The thing is that they are probably talking to someone, just free from geographical constraints. The assumed hierarchy of the means of communication, that local face to face is superior, is being questioned and blurred.

The ability to “reach” me has never been so easy and so personal. I have been a ‘net user since before the browser was invented and so I have developed a certain thick skin to attempts to draw my attention. The blinking “new message” indicator on an instant messenger application is just that – an indicator, not a command to answer immediately. I’ll get to it when I’m ready thank you very much.

In the last two weeks I’ve had some interesting moments of commercial messaging (in the form of email) which highlighted the different ends of the spectrum for engaging with me.

Firstly, spam is always, always bad. Unsolicited email, sms, instant messages, chat requests are instantly deleted and the companies are black-listed. I report spam regularly and proudly. Cold calling me? Don’t bother!

The first example was the morning of the Google Developer Day, at about 8am Google sent me an email with my registration QR code. Since the doors opened at 8am and I was currently walking to the venue across Darling Harbour, I felt that this was a very elegant use of email and awareness of the flow of an attendee needs at the time. Whether it was coincidence that I got the mail then or planned I’m not exactly sure, but it sure felt deliberate and made the registration process very smooth.

The counter example was today when I got a special offers email from Dominos pizza (which I opted in for). The email was received at 8:30 AM! I opened up the message and was greeted with a picture of a pizza. The special offer actually made me feel a bit nauseated and I was surprised at how I reacted. Friday is a great day of the week to send the offer, but pre 9am? I can imagine the offer having a positive impact on me after 5pm.

Both of these examples show that in an always on world, new levels of savvy (or common sense) are demanded. When you push a message to me, I will receive it near real time and so too will an ever increasing segment of your intended audience. Marketing departments cannot just pick a day of the week to engage, but you have to now consider time of day and even context.

The more behaviourally aware that these techniques become the more shot-gun spraying and awkward the brute force methods appear. A great example of this is recently with eBay. I’ve been getting a lot of spammy emails for women’s shoes and other near random items. Firstly, I don’t use eBay very often but I am not encouraged by these very annoying and pointless anti-offers.

For a while about a year ago, Google products thought I was Spanish and were always offering to translate from English to Spanish. My YouTube searches default to Spanish language results. My settings were explicitly set to English and my location to Australia, but this must be one of those times that Google thought it knew better. The problem went away after a week or so.

If your product or service is going to store data on me it should be used to improve my experience with your brand. Use my usage patterns and methods that I engage with you as a guide to how to interact with me. Simply increasing the frequency and number of channels to contact me isn’t a sign of improving relations.

Instead intelligently engaging with me with a respectful awareness of my context, especially if it is on a personal device such as a phone, is a winning tactic in my book.

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