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31 January 2014

Climbing the stairway to success... through customer irritation?

These turbulent times of economic recession force companies to reinvent their business and to stand out from the competition. Remarkably, it seems that a lot of companies seek the Holy Grail in consumer irritation. Communicating every message everywhere at every time is the new strategy of marketers who only try to generate sales at the expense of what the customer really wants. 

Nonetheless, it is quite doubtful that commercial successes are generated by getting on consumers’ nerves. Customer loyalty – surely on the long term – can only be built on positive recalls and experiences. Therefore, marketers should strive to make every consumer contact count instead of irritating consumers and depending on gigantic marketing budgets.

Consumer irritation, what is in a name?

The success of ad blockers already give away that consumers do not like the overload of advertisements appearing on all their mobile devices. Do not get me wrong, consumer irritation is of all time. It is the technological possibilities of nowadays that led to the explosion of it. Let me guide you through my own irritations.

YouTube-Ads. Listening to music on YouTube automatically means that before almost every music fragment, you have to watch an advertisement for at least five seconds. While YouTube is clearly a content-driven medium, why do advertisers force YouTube-visitors to watch their commercial? Undoubtedly, YouTube is one of the best communication channels in terms of awareness as YouTube is – after Google and Facebook – the third most visited site in Belgium. Nevertheless, does not every marketer learn to think from the perspective of consumers? It is hardly breaking news that consumers are no proponents of YouTube-ads as the Facebook-group ‘Dear YouTube, I will always “Skip this ad”’ with more than 100.000 likes and the very big success of ad blockers demonstrate. However, it seems that marketers have forgotten this major point of view. Has no advertiser ever wondered if it is not dangerous to affiliate their brands with such kind of negative irritated feelings?

Retargeting. Since it is the purpose of retargeting to reach out to the key audience more efficiently with more relevant messages, there is a contradiction between retargeting and irritation. Retargeting should mean that consumers receive less, but more relevant advertisements; a win-win situation. However, retargeting is also known as the marketing strategy which has no secret left anymore for Zalando and You cannot look at a shoe, without the shoe chasing you the following weeks, over and beyond everyone’s irritation level. Thinking from the perspective of consumers, I cannot understand this exorbitant stalking behavior.

Newsletters. Newsletters are a very useful medium to approach your target audience. Nonetheless, under the excuse of current technological limitations to segment customers, companies bomb everyone in their database with all their nice newsletters. Instead of communicating every message to every consumer at every time, marketers should focus on their target group in order to communicate the right message at the right time.

Being on the back of consumers, a guarantee for success?

Although consumers would not like to hear it, an important question is whether consumer irritation can be lucrative business. Some marketing gurus put forward that as long as you stir consumers’ emotions, it does not matter whether these emotions are positive or negative through which they believe in consumer irritation. The argument is that by irritation your brand is remembered and that consumers buy mostly recognizable brands and products. So does this mean that all companies have to start irritating consumers? 

According to me, the answer is no. It is indeed true that consumers prefer to buy recognizable brands. Nevertheless, putting forward consumer irritation as optimal solution is nearsighted. Everyone can be successful if they spend a fortune on advertising, but what about building customer loyalty and long-term successes?

On top of that, I think consumers nowadays are almost blind to advertisements as they are so used to it. Like my colleague Karolien Vanhelden previously noted in her blog: marketers should look for an answer to the cacophony of brand messages and – in contrast to get on consumers’ nerves – bring back some peace and quietness. In my opinion, marketers have to come up with a much stronger plan than consumer irritation.

Being focused and creative, the best alternative for consumer irritation?

Instead of annoying consumers, companies can realize a much stronger brand position built on positive consumers’ recalls and customer loyalty. Make consumers laugh, make them happy, make them share, make them think. Strive in every message through every kind of medium to add value for your customer. How? Focus and creativity, two principles of THoM’s FACTS vision, are the magic words. Focus on the key message and your target audience through strong content and clear profiled media. Also, marketers should strive to be remembered by ultimate creativity instead of irritation. Nowadays, creativity is crucial to stand out from the mass. That creativity leads to positive consumers’ emotions and recalls shows the good example of De Lijn who – even with not the most positive company reputation – succeeds in charming everyone with a funny red-haired stressman.

Get inspired and climb the stairway to success by creating positive customers’ experiences instead of being on the back of consumers. May my point be clear… and positively remembered.