Avoid These Worst Marketing Practices That Only Alienate Your Audience
Think about your favorite brands and why you’re loyal to them. You no doubt love their product, but you’re likely a return customer for a host of other reasons as well. Brand loyalty is about much more than providing quality goods; it often involves a brand possessing other key traits associated with a good business including honesty, reliability, effective marketing, and a satisfying customer experience.
Now think about the brands you tend to avoid. Sure, an inferior product may be the biggest factor, but it’s also possible that you’ve chosen to stay clear of the brand due to ineffective advertising, bad reviews, poor customer service, or other unfavorable factors. In this day and age, getting just one major element of the customer journey wrong can be disastrous to a brand’s reputation and bottom line.
Now think about your brand. While it’s becoming harder to live up to customers’ increasingly higher expectations, there are a number of best practices to incorporate into your marketing strategy that can help. However, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll be focusing on something just as important: how to avoid some of the worst practices.
When developing your marketing and communications strategies, it’s wise to put yourself in the customers’ shoes, to consider not only what tactics would draw you in but also which ones might push you away. While typically ineffective at winning over customers or followers, the following practices are highly effective at tarnishing brands:
It’s a Trap!
A big part of marketing involves “hooking” your audience with “bait,” i.e. attention-grabbing content, products, or prices, then reeling them into the shopping cart where you complete the sale. However, when your bait is fake or misleading, all you’re likely to do is leave a bad taste in the mouths of potential customers while losing both the sale and the person’s interest for good.
We’ve all been there: scrolling through social media when an image or headline catches our attention in such a way that we just have to click to watch or read more. Yet, all too often, the link takes us to an offer or product that doesn’t match the ad, or the article title has little to do with the story. From “Don’t Click This!” to “Wait for it…,” you don’t have to be Admiral Ackbar to see most “clickbait” coming from a mile away nowadays. However, despite its ubiquitous nature and blatant hyperbole, we’re all still prone to fall for clickbait from time to time, only to be disappointed or angry at being deceived yet again.
Sometimes sensationalized, sometimes downright misleading, clickbait litters the digital landscape like the annoying trash that it is. In existence long before the internet’s inception, a similar type of deception is called “bait and switch” — a form of litigable fraud where a customer is “baited” into stores with an advertisement offering a great deal only to discover the item is not available, or “switched” with a similar yet higher-priced product.
Online, companies still engage in price or product misrepresentation, though it’s rarely punished. That doesn’t mean you should do it. While people tend to frown on others tricking them into clicking, they really hate it when brands offer them one thing and then try to sell them something different. Furthermore, clickbait adversely affects SEO as search engines like Google monitor your pages and penalize poor bounce rates. The best thing to do is to use authentic, captivating ways to lure your audience in.
Spam a Lot
No, we’re not referring to the side-splitting Monty Python musical, although this alternative definition of “spam” was derived from one of their sketches in which the processed canned pork brand’s name was repeated ad nauseam. We’re talking about the sending of unsolicited or irrelevant emails, text messages, and other communications in order to instantly market a product or service to thousands of Internet users at once. Just like clickbait, if you travel the Web, you’ve no doubt been spammed before — likely through email or social media DMs.
Again, the internet wasn’t the first to bring this blight upon society. Literal mailboxes have long been crammed with junk mail — promotional ads, letters, and fliers that few people have asked for since the dawn of mail services. Print “spam,” while typically more effective, is obviously more costly. Electronic spam is dirt cheap, if not free; hence why everyone’s inboxes are overflowing with it.
According to Statista, between October 2020 and September 2021, global daily spam volume reached its highest point in July 2021, with almost 283 billion spam emails (84%) from a total of 336.41 billion sent emails. Though typically sent to get a customer bite or click-through, sometimes spam is used for more nefarious purposes such as phishing or spreading malware.
Another big alienator of audiences, spam is a good way to get your business blocked from future correspondence. Furthermore, sophisticated spam blockers make the effort near futile. Suffice it to say, forget not spamming a lot; don’t spam at all.
Let’s say that you have a well-established brand and you’re driving that brand happily down the road to success, in your lane, surely and steadily. Then, inexplicably, you decide to veer off course, thinking that taking your brand in new and exciting directions would be a nice change. Whoa…whoa…why?
The whole point of building a strong, recognizable brand identity is so that your target audience is aware of your brand, remembers it, and can expect consistency in all its content and messaging. This doesn’t mean your brand shouldn’t evolve or experiment from time to time in order to grow and reach a wider audience, but you have a brand identity for a reason. You have to walk a fine line when trying to appeal to different groups while staying true to your brand identity, or you risk alienating your loyal customers — the ones you tailored your brand to attract.
Unless you’re rebranding and taking your look, feel, and voice in a new direction, it’s not wise to go off-brand with your messaging. This goes for digital, print, broadcast, everything attached to your brand. If your brand identity is one of professionalism and seriousness, then suddenly putting out a humorous post could be confusing. Likewise, if yours is more of a loose and casual brand, people who enjoy your lighthearted messaging may be left wondering why you’ve suddenly become so serious. People prefer consistency and familiarity which tend to breed loyalty. Speaking of veering off-brand…
With the rise of cancel culture and brand boycotts, if you’re selling, say, beer or ice cream, then chances are that the majority of your audience isn’t breathlessly awaiting your company’s take on the hot button issues of our day, especially when they’re not relevant to what you provide.
While some brands can and do benefit from committing to lofty ESG goals, which can be important to some audiences, in today’s politically charged climate, why take the risk of alienating a huge chunk of your base by dipping your toes into dangerous political waters and weighing in on subjects outside of your scope? Unless it benefits your company, stick to what you do best — making a quality product or service that people can use to make their daily lives better. Remember, your main responsibility to your workers and other stakeholders is to shoot for higher profits, not shoot your brand in the foot.
While it’s not a hard and fast rule, sometimes you can tell if a brand is worth your time simply by the effort they put into their creative assets. Take a company’s website, social media posts, or billboard ads for instance; if they read like a grade-schooler wrote the copy or look as if someone created them through Microsoft Paint, then there’s a good chance they don’t put much effort into other aspects of their business, like product quality or customer service. If a business isn’t willing to take their brand seriously, how can you take them seriously?
From bland copy and too many typos to poorly chosen images and illegible fonts, an air of unprofessionalism can sink your interaction with a potential customer from the get go.
Sure, there are some great tools out there that allow people to design their own ads, fliers, and websites, but it takes some know-how as well as a good eye and good marketing sense. Doing it on your own could cost you more time and resources, and customers, than it would with the help of an affordable quality agency.
Even if your creative assets are top-notch, it may not matter if you don’t make navigation through the sales funnel as easy and satisfying as possible. Let’s start with clicking to your website. While slow-loading websites are fewer and farther between nowadays, they’re still out there, and internet users are as impatient as ever when it comes to the loading of pages. Taking more than a few seconds to fully load a page can be all it takes to lose a potential customer.
In addition, a website setup that is confusingly structured, maybe containing dead links or poor instruction, will only leave visitors frustrated and willing to quickly go elsewhere. Similar to having poor creative assets, this also reeks of unprofessionalism. Clarity, user-friendliness, and a seamless connection between pages and channels are essential to keeping your audience engaged.
With the rise of smartphone usage, mobile optimization in particular has become a necessity for most brands to compete. At the beginning of 2021, 55.4% of internet users used mobile phones to buy online (DataReportal) while at the end of 2021, mobile devices generated 54.4% of global website traffic (Statista). Not optimizing your website for mobile is a sure way to sabotage your growth.
Customer service is and has always been a huge factor in sticking with a brand or not. When you’re slow to respond or you fail to respond at all to a customer’s email or social media comment, you not only do a disservice to that person but also create a reputation that your brand can’t be bothered with the little man and isn’t to be trusted.
Customers appreciate and demand individual attention, more so than ever. Whether it’s a potential customer inquiring about certain product features or an existing customer who didn’t get the right order, the quicker you address customer needs, the better. Even after you have made the sale, if you’re not responsive to things like shipping inquiries or issues with your product, that one sale may be all you’ll ever have with that customer.
It’s a good practice to consistently assess your current marketing footprint for faux pas such as these. If you’re currently utilizing one of these surefire ways to alienate your audience — let alone more than one *gasp* — our advice is to stop immediately and go a different direction. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from practices that would turn you off as a consumer.
At M:7, we know what it takes to build an optimal customer journey while avoiding all the missteps that cause customers to go in a different direction. Whether your business could benefit from a user-friendly website or social media campaign that gets you more engagement, don’t hesitate to contact us today for any or all of your marketing and communications needs.