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Marketing Will Only Win When Humans Control the Machines

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In quantum mechanics there is a rule: when particles are observed, they behave differently. We found out in the late ’90s, via various experiments, that electrons act as either particles or waves, depending on whether they were observed. What does that have to do with marketing, you say?

Let’s translate what we know about quantum mechanics to the world of the consumer and our observation and marketing efforts. I’ll wager that it’s a similar phenomenon. When we’re observing our customers and gathering data on them, we’re affecting their relationship with us as brands. Especially if we’re not careful with how we use the information we gather.

Let’s have a show of hands

How many of you feel that you’re being followed around on the internet? You look at a website or click on an ad, and suddenly that ad is following you around everywhere you go online. It’s called retargeting, and it’s become a very popular form of mass marketing. Does seeing this ad around every corner or popping in the middle of a YouTube video you’re trying to watch give you a sudden urge to buy that product?

Now check your junk mail box, and unfortunately your regular inbox too, because so many are finding their way through the filters. Do you see emails from the same companies who follow you around online? Do those emails ever come out of your SPAM mindset and get acted upon? No? Do they come again, and again, and again WAY too often…? Even if you try to unsubscribe?

Now raise your hand if you participate in retargeting your customers, and bombarding them with email offers… I thought so.

Related: Prepare for the Future; Expect to Be Surprised

We’re not learning the lessons of the past

Just like mass marketing in the days of old, retargeting is being used to inundate our customers with unwanted, interruptive solicitations. We’re bombarding them with daily emails (sometimes twice and three times a day). We’re stalking them around the internet from web surfing to social platforms, and even pinging them on their cell phones! You can’t scroll a single article from an online magazine on your phone without having to navigate around in-line ads and pop-ups. It’s F*#@-ing ANNOYING!!

“We’re repeating history, because during the mass marketing years we didn’t pay attention to the downside either.”

But worse than just being annoying, it’s damaging to the customer experience. All you have to do is put yourself in the shoes of your consumer, but many of us simply don’t. Everyone is doing it right now, so we’re all victims, yet we’re still “doing unto others” what we find off-putting in the extreme ourselves. We’re repeating history, because during the mass marketing years we didn’t pay any attention to the downside either.

Brands are running headlong into brand equity destruction through incessant programmatic and digital spamming. The rise of retargeting and digital yield techniques is killing brands, and brand equity for the long-term. It makes me wonder how many brand managers bother signing up for their own email distribution lists, or shop their brands from an anonymous browser to experience what their customers are being subjected to.

Despite becoming numb to the onslaught of messaging, I suspect that the overall perception of brands that are engaging in such digital behavior, is declining dramatically… And this is a central tenant of brand relevancy.

The numbers and sentiment you’re NOT tracking are important

We’ve got data coming out of our ears, so tracking the results of our marketing efforts in terms of dollars and cents is becoming easier and easier. However, all these efforts only measure the upside of banging consumers over the head (how many more clicks, shares, engagements, and ultimately sales, do we get).

No regard is given to the downside numbers. What we’re NOT tracking is the point at which our customers turn from just annoyed, to fed up with our bot stalking and algorithm tweaking. And even if we COULD come up with a KPI for the flip side, it will be difficult to analytically compare.

“We need to spend as much time finding ways to track the negative effect of our marketing efforts, as we do the positive ones.

So what’s a marketer to do? I think we need to spend as much time finding ways to track the negative effect of our marketing efforts as we do the positive ones. Those quantum scientists we talked about earlier found out that by controlling the properties of the quantum observer, the scientists could control the extent of its influence on the electrons’ behavior. I think the same can be said for brands — we now know that our marketing has both positive and negative effects on our consumers.

We need to study all of it, because by controlling how we market to our customers and finding ways to add value rather than beating them over the head, we can have a less disruptive effect on their lives and a more positive experience with our brands. Let’s start doing that immediately, so we can start to see a building of brand equity over time — not the huge loss of it that’s occurring right now.

Every brand that continues to bang your customers or followers over the head again, and again, and again – without regard to the damage it is doing to brand equity – is going to suffer as we move forward in this customer, “my media my way”, world.

Marketing will truly win when humans control the machines, instead of the machines controlling the humans. #RetailRelevancy

This first appeared on Ted Rubin

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