Very Risky Business

In the day-to-day hustle of getting messages out the door to audiences, I’ve noticed that my profession has a dirty little secret that few either acknowledge or discuss. Risk. I’m talking about brand and relationship risk that is present ANY TIME an organization communicates.

It’s real. We know that in branding EVERYTHING counts so I’m fascinated as to why so many organizations will still interrupt and beat their audiences to death with their messages (ahem- telemarketing, retargeting, robocalls) when they know full well that over-communication can actually drive people away from brands.

To me, there are two kinds of risk associated with communications that must be addressed with clients or any organizations who decide to communicate:

1.  Legal Risk—with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in full swing in the UK and Washington gearing up to send out its own digital privacy protection laws next year, getting digital communications wrong can come with stiff penalties and soon will be enforced state by state just like labor and tax laws. And soon you will need a lawyer, IT person and marketing pro to all agree when something is “ok to send.” Oh yes, WE did this btw — it’s marketing’s fault. Consumer data was our golden goose and rather than wait and get an egg every day, we decided to cut the fat little sucker open and see what would happen. GDPR happened and that is just the beginning. 

2.  Reputation/Relationship Risk— The irony is we communicate to forge stronger relationships with our audiences, but when our communications is untargeted, unwanted, boring or bad, the audience may like us less than if we did nothing at all. Yep.

Now, there is one solution to both of these types of risk and it’s the big “e” word that is absent from most organizational communications — Empathy. Actually taking the time to think about the messages we are sending out and how they might affect people and THEIR lives is a BIG deal and needs to be done FAR more often. Spoiler: It isn’t. 

In the past week, I’ve gotten 8 emails from a supermarket (I go to the store once per week on the same day), 10 from an online music retailer (I buy strings about once every other month) and 7 from a tech deals web site (I’ve purchased one time in the past two years). You see, they are trying to move me down their “funnel” or my “customer journey,” but all they are actually doing is annoying me and tainting their brands in my eyes. And I’m sure they don’t see it that way because they are laser focused on THEIR needs, not mine and by doing this they are saying THEIR time is more precious than mine. I disagree. And don’t forget the very first link on my mail app is Unsubscribe— just begging me to dissolve the relationship and make them a bad memory. 

A little thought and empathy would solve it. Instead we have armies of “digital marketers” or worse A.I. programs “optimizing the funnel” by sending garbage out constantly. Doesn’t matter if it’s good, just that it’s going out. (Sigh)

Let’s be better. Let’s do better and think about our audiences for a change. Remember, that is the actual job of marketing — to build relationships…and ironically you also possess the exact same tools that can destroy them. Choose wisely. The future of marketing may depend on it.