OK, that was a bit overly dramatic but it is how many professional marketers react, and often the general public too when subjected to really bad marketing practices.

I’m not talking about those terrible ads that we love-hate (Voted No.1 – well done Go Compare) but the actual execution and timings of these campaigns.


People do some amazingly dumb – there is no better word – activity when they launch and execute their precious marketing and advertising campaigns. Months of planning, multiple stakeholders, big money investments and expectations circulated far and wide, yet we see again and again the disjoint between the ‘pretty crayons’ shown in the creative briefing being destroyed in how the campaign is rolled out.


Some example that I’ve experienced recently:


  • Sending out promotional emails in the middle of the night, or even Monday morning/Friday evening. Every analytic study on this subject – ever – tells you that these are the worst time to send out marketing communications. You dramatically increase the chances that no one will read it, no one will care, and they will get binned (if not moved to ‘Block Spam’)!


  • Putting ads in magazines or press that have zero relevance to your target audience. I’ve recently seen ads for a sports brand in a magazine of political satire, as well as youth brands put in broadsheet press. I would love to know the strategy behind those decisions!


  • Paying for radio advertising in the middle of the night. Companies often get offered these slots for free as a sweetener/giveaway if they purchase the more relevant day-time slots, but I know of two companies that paid marketing dollars to include midnight to 5am in their media planning!


  • Sponsoring an event and having zero sales presence there on the day. I went to a sporting event and there was an electronics brand plastered everywhere, including a ‘Sales Tent’. They had demo products on display and I loved one of the new TV’s, but the staff there had zero product knowledge, no idea about costs, launch date or availability. There was no collateral or brochures. Lost my sale!


These campaigns all had serious budget and resources allocated to them yet they will almost certainly see a zero to near-zero ROI. There are many reasons why these dumb campaigns happen: a result of apathy, or downright laziness, towards the media planning; being talked into it by an over-keen and under-paid supplier (or one who is just not good enough); planning put together by someone lacking experience and who does not know the industry best practises in such situations. Sometimes the best decision is to do nothing.


It is such a waste and really annoys me, both professionally as someone who is expected to be able to explain why any company would do this, and also as a consumer who is just irked to see this out there.


Stop it Marketing Departments. Please. Stop.  …Think.


But WAIT! … I am going to defend a marketing practice that a lot of people think falls into this category but as far as I’m concerned is underused nowadays.


Direct Mail.


I am going to admit that I learned my trade working on direct mail marketing campaigns aimed at businesses and consumers alike, and while it was sad to see the decline in DM and shift to email as the preferred contact medium, it was completely justified. When AOL CDs started being used as a drinks coaster instead of being put in a computer, you knew it was time to stop wasting the money (that was a staggering large marketing campaign back in the day).


People called it Junk Mail for a reason.


But time heals all wounds and I feel that we’ve turned a tide generationally. The decline of mail to the door-step coupled with the rampant problem of junk mails’ evolution into spam Email creates an opportunity to recapture the focus of a very selected and targeted audience via direct mail again. Please note the important use there of “selected and targeted”, we must learn from mistakes of the past and not shotgun blast out DM, and it would be dumb to in these days of smart media planning, data mining, segmentation and dynamic audience profiling. Implemented with retention planning to existing customers is where I see gold.


I know that I notice and pay attention to every single piece of mail I receive again as long as the effort has been made to ensure relevance to me. Perhaps I am biased but I will bet we will see more companies looking to engage existing customers both on and – once again – off-line in the near future.


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