Digital Marketing is Going Horribly Wrong – Is Anyone Listening?

Rumblings of discontent are being felt by marketers all over the globe as consumers start to fight back… so why are things going pear-shaped in digital marketing land?   

Digital marketing is in crisis

New research for Sitecore by Vanson Bourne says almost 100% of British consumers dislike personalisation. 680 marketing and IT decision makers and 6,800 consumers were interviewd for the research, so the results are empirically sound.
98% of those asked said they believe in ‘bad personalisation’, a number so high it proves businesses are failing miserably to use consumer data in the way marketers claim they do. At the same time 66% of respondents say brands are using out-of-date information.
On average the brands quizzed said they’re collecting eight different types of data about their online customers, but just 18% of them acknowledge they don’t have the skills to use or analyse the data effectively. A sorry 42% can’t integrate data collection, full stop. And all this is set against a backdrop of the most extraordinary levels of self-congratulation in the digital marketing sector, at a time when GDPR – the new data protection regulation – is on the horizon.

Why do people dislike personalisation so much?

Some people find it creepy when re-targeting campaigns follow them around the internet. Some are angered by the sheer amount of personal data collected by businesses without asking permission. Others say they’re just not getting the ‘personalised digital experiences’ they’ve been promised. 54% of people said brands are drawing conclusions about them from just one interaction, which is crazy in anyone’s book. And 54% say brands send out far too many messages.
All of this feeds into something I’ve been mulling over for a while now. We’re back to that old chestnut again: if marketers only bothered to put their consumer head on they’d realise that people don’t want to be marketed at any more than they already are.
This is borne out by a post by the brilliant non-BS marketer Malcolm Auld. When Malcolm recently asked around 200 marketers and agency people a few key questions about content marketing, this is what he discovered. I’ve plonked the most relevant bit below, verbatim, and you can read the whole thing here.
The questions Malcolm asked:

  • Who wants every brand they come in contact with to deliver more advertising and an increasing volume of content to them at every opportunity possible?
  • Who wants more email in their inbox?
  • Who wants more notifications on their mobile?
  • Who woke this morning craving relationships with consumer brands? Can’t wait to read the thought leadership on toilet roll brands?
  • Who has walked out of a retail store or café because you didn’t get served?

The answers were fascinating.

  • Not one marketer in the room wanted more content delivered to them by marketers
  • Not one marketer in the room wanted more email
  • Not one marketer in the room wanted more notifications
  • Not one marketer in the room woke up thinking about brands, let alone wanting relationships with them
  • Every marketer in the room had walked out of a store because a salesperson hadn’t tried to sell them something.

This is fascinating stuff folks. After all, if marketers and advertisers don’t want what the content marketers and the cyber-hustlers are flogging, why do they believe their customers want it?

I rest my case. At the risk of doing myself out of content creation projects, if I were you I’d create less content and you might make it count more. As I responded to Malcolm on LinkedIn: “Too many marketers forget that they’re also consumers. If they put their consumer head on they’d probably be horrified at some of the nonsense they get up to.”

Brand suspicion reaches new heights

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more research hinting that digital marketing is going horribly wrong. According to the respected research experts Kantar, consumers in developed countries like the UK and USA are growing ever-more suspicious of brands’ marketing shenanigans. At the same time folk in so-called emerging economies like China and Nigeria are happier to accept brand content and messaging… but how long will the innocence last?

  • In China 57% of consumers trust big global brands
  • In Nigeria it’s 54%
  • In the USA it’s just 21%
  • In France it’s as low as 15%

More consumers in developed nations are prioritising privacy too, with 43% of those asked saying they object to connected devices monitoring their activities, even when connecting everything up makes life easier.

A shot across the marketing industry’s bows

It looks like the digital marketing pigeons are coming home to roost. Too many years of naive digital marketers aiming far too much marketing guff at people who are actually not interested are taking their toll.
If I was still in the marketing game, I’d be sitting up and taking notice of what consumers are trying to tell us: less is more, we’re fed up of you nicking our personal data without our say so, we value our privacy, we’re not fools, you can’t predict us, we don’t like being taken advantage of, we’re humans first and consumers second, and the internet we love is about so much more than mere shopping.

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