We need to stop turning people off — now!

I’m late to the game with this, but Tom Hespos has written an important piece that begs marketers to look beyond the short term. It mirrors something I learned a few years ago and have been saying ever since: TV promotions people don’t realize how badly their promos turn people off.

We “tease” people who don’t wish to be teased. We “drive them to” programs where they don’t wish to be driven. By our language and our behavior, we’ve been telling viewers for years that we don’t give a shit about THEM. This, as Tom so beautifully points out, is our downfall.

We’re stuck in the Age of Short-Term Impact, where many marketing decisions primarily hinge on a particular tactic’s ability to move product off of store shelves within the current quarter. Very little attention is being paid to the long-term effects of these tactics. There are not enough marketers asking what happens to the 99 percent of people who didn’t immediately rush out to the store to buy the marketer’s product. Are those people approachable again? Or have they been so inundated with overly intrusive ad formats that they’re forever aligned against the marketer’s brand?

Look at comments people leave in online communities about brands they dislike. Did many of these brands commit some unforgivable sin when servicing the customer? Some did, but you’ll find that many people reacting negatively in consumer forums are doing so because they’ve been broadcasted to instead of interacted with. There’s only so much that consumers can take, especially when technology helps to make indiscriminate broadcasting obsolete.

The problem is that we’re stuck in ruts, and even promotions people who understand this are helpless to do anything about it. “It’s the way it’s done,” is the response. Tom’s whole point is that this excuse is irrelevant, and I agree with him. For me, it took at trip to Nielsen and the reading of ratings’ diaries to get a sense of the depth to which our industry is actually pushing people away by doing things the way we’ve always done them.

Fixing this is a key part of reinventing ourselves for a personal media world.

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