When Targeted Marketing Misses Its Target

dart board missed the bullseye

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Marketing as we know it is changing drastically. Instead of going after generalized demographics and target markets, we are seeing the rise of personalized ads. The growing popularity of social networks like Facebook and Instagram allows marketers to see what potential customers like and how they choose to consume advertising.

Mobile marketing is also taking off in new ways. If a company can get someone to “opt in,” they’ve essentially identified a marketing gold mine — someone who has said “sure, you can contact me with ads and I don’t mind.” But what happens when marketers abuse this power?

My husband is someone who appreciates a good deal. He also loves Subway sandwiches. So when Subway offered to send him exclusive personalized deals via his mobile device, he happily opted in. About a week into the campaign, my husband, who typically works nights, was awakened to a 9 a.m. message. The message, from Subway, read: “Rise ‘n Shine @ Subway.” This marked the beginning of an anti-Subway sentiment in our home.

Subway FailLet me break this down. Personalized marketing, the “gold mine” of customer interaction I referred to hinges on a basic fundamental rule: know your customer. In this case, Subway managed to find a loyal customer who agreed to receive personalized deals and messages, and they completely blew it.

Subway, who spends about $536M yearly in advertising and marketing, is not alone in their mistake. I am bombarded daily with emails and display ads from rosegal.com, an online clothing company that sent me cheaply made children’s sized clothing, and has yet to return my emails regarding a return or my money. Their retargeting campaign to me on Facebook highlighting new items is the worst advertising spend I could imagine. With every retargeting ad, I cringe. Even worse, I’m reminded to share my poor experience through my social networks.

This article from Entrepreneur nails it when it discusses ways marketers can capitalize on personalized marketing. It highlights the importance of timeliness, context and messaging when personalizing marketing strategies.

So, what happens when marketers do get it right? Pizza Hut saw success in mobile marketing when they targeted people with coupons only after they had opted in and only when they were within a half mile of a Pizza Hut location. In fact, they measured the SMS campaign was 2.6 times more effective than traditional online display advertisements.

In short, if your customer doesn’t cash in on an offer the first time, or the third time, you might be offering the wrong thing. If a customer disengages, you’re likely sending the wrong message. And, the big one, if you annoy your customer by choosing bad timing or poor messaging, you may lose your loyal customer forever. When it comes to personalized marketing, don’t be afraid to get personal. Know your customer — or lose them.

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