Any piece of communication sent out blindly and without relevance can be a complete waste of time for marketers. And for consumers too, who weren’t interested in receiving the message in the first place.
The need to be there first, and to reach a large audience, is what mostly drives brands to ramp up the frequency of their communication. But for most consumers, this becomes a cause for sheer irritation.
The financial and telecom sectors have earned a bad reputation for bombarding consumers with continuous communication. While brands try hard to reach out to their TG to convert them into potential customers, many a time they end up over-connecting with them.
BestMediaInfo talked to industry leaders to understand why, how and when brands need to draw the line between too much caring and spamming, which has unfortunately become a norm these days.
Brands want to drive connections to re-engage with customers. And so most brands, small or big, are learning and developing their tools to identify the right amount of exposure for their customers — and it varies by industry type, said Rashmi Sehgal, SVP, Digital Media Planning, Zenith.
Re-connecting with consumers is an essential tool for bottom-of-the-funnel conversion activity for marketers. But what brands need to remember is to avoid over-exposure before customers, Sehgal said.
She said a poorly implemented re-connecting/ re-targeting activity may annoy the customer to the extent that they may shut off the brand. Thus, a negative effect can outweigh a positive connection that was previously developed, she explained.
Vishal Nicholas, EVP and Head, Planning and Strategy, dentsu mcgarrybowen India, said that often it isn’t the brands but their representatives such as direct sales associates (DSA) who hound consumers. Their KRA is only sales and not brand equity, so again the onus is on brands to make the efforts of their representatives more informed and concentrated rather than a spray-and-pray approach.
“Brands tend to forget that like advertising, contacting the customer directly is also an interruption in the consumer’s life. It is the brand’s responsibility to make it a meaningful interruption that both sides find useful,” he said.
Kishan Kumar Shyamalan, Chief Growth Officer, Wavemaker India, said if there was one thing that was discussed, debated, and acted upon by every brand owner worth his or her salt in the last few years, it must be brand purpose.
While the current mood of the country is sombre, he said it is a tricky time for marketers. It is not enough to have the intent right; the communication and context need to be sensitive. The fundamental question that needs to be asked every single time anyone thinks of a purposeful campaign is, ‘are consumers ready for this?’.
Drawing attention to brands from insurance, financial products, credit cards and similar genres that showcase so much love and concern that it sometimes gets on to the customers’ nerves, Sujit Patil, VP and Head Corporate Brand and Communications Godrej Industries, said they should draw a line between incessant follow-ups, or hammering ads on social to a point that they become a put-off.
The golden rule of communication today is to reach the right customer, through the right platform, on the right device and at the right time. And many marketers inadvertently overlook the last two.
“Responsible and caring brands seek the consent of the TG to track or even message them. The need to respect privacy and consent of customers is paramount, and that’s how it should be. Frankly, it spells out desperation from the brand. Especially when attempting to retain or regain customers, incessant calls and messages just tell them you are only valued when you reach the exit doors,” he said.
When new brands enter a category and find a foothold due to exploitation of a gap, introduction of a niche product or simply having a more focused and targeted portfolio of products, it's quite natural for existing players to get aggressive with their communication.
Also in some categories, there is actually a very small discernible differentiation between brands, from a customer’s point of view. The brands seem to have similar offerings, just like in telecom.
In such cases, Poulomi Roy, Chief Marketing Officer at RSH Global, said, it becomes very difficult to keep customers aware of the differentiating factors and hence brands tend to have more frequent communication to increase retention.
While reach and consistency in communication are important, she said it cannot be the sole purpose of a brand’s strategy. Bombarding potential customers with messages, especially without a differentiation in offering, is futile. She suggested brands should instead invest more time and effort in building a good product and sustain quality because in the longer run, to retain customers and to keep them engaged, the relationship is going to matter.
Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former Asia Marketing Head of HP, said marketers often connect with consumers more often than needed because of the absence of a clear internal filter that ensures no customer can be reached beyond a fixed interval in any given period.
“This needs an effective internal policy that is adhered to – so the same consumer is not targeted by marketers across various verticals of the same organisation. Many companies miss having and enforcing this policy strictly. This also happens when the company hires external marketing agencies and call centres, which are rewarded on the basis of strike rates. In their desire to maximise pay-outs, the third-party agencies may spam consumers with communication more often than is appropriate. All this results in consumer irritation and is often more damaging for a brand, and reflects poorly,” he said.
Also consumers are quick to mark such efforts as spam and these mails then become a permanent part of the spam folder.
Experts agreed that there is no point acting like a jilted lover because that isn’t going to bring back the customer.
How to draw a line between sharp communication and spamming
We all hear and talk a lot about the importance of data in creativity. But data is important in sensitivity as well, said Nicholas.
“If you have data of your customer and their usage patterns that automatically should tell you about predictive usage, which means the brand should only contact the customer based on some intelligence of their potential needs. Agencies can propose effective martech solutions to improve the quality of direct contact,” he said.
Sehgal, explaining how agencies can help, said brands wanting to ensure they get positive ROI via each consumer connect yet not over-connect to fall into the pit of losing customers via spamming.
And this is where an agency can help tread the thin line. Agencies help put together an effective plan that measures ROI by channel. This can be enabled by setting a certain weekly frequency of exposure and measuring its impact, reiterating this to identify the right cut-off before the exposures start becoming over-exposures.
Several factors come together to convince a consumer to buy a certain product, and advertising is just one of those. If a brand sets unrealistic demands of clocking X numbers in a certain time period of a campaign, it is way beyond practically possible, which even an agency will not be able to deliver.
Roy said it is important for brands to brief their agency properly. Focused targeting should be considered over widening the bracket in the hope of getting some conversion.
More often, customers appreciate if a brand takes consent to message them.
Patil said brands should give their customers the power to put a brand under DND or unsubscribe from messages and notification. It just assures them that brands have no intention of stalking them.
He said, “Brands need to understand just because your customer is active at a certain time doesn’t mean it makes it right to message them. I hate it when callers representing large banks call on a Sunday afternoon in a very crude tone just to tick mark on the lists shared by their managers. Also, some brand messages cross the line and sound too casual and personal. While it has its benefits and edge, it can also backfire. So use it judiciously.”
Mathias said brands should be very selective when targeting consumers with outbound communication — be it emails, telephone calls or surveys for feedback. There is a fine line between caring and spamming – and it's always advisable to err on the side of caution.