Going Beyond the Spam

As the new year began, my birthday was quickly approaching, and I found myself receiving a number of birthday wishes from some of my favorite brands (Anthropologie, Sephora, Origins, etc.). As the years pass, I look forward to the free gift or discount incentive for being a loyal customer. I would not even consider myself a “loyal” customer (or even a frequent shopper) for some of these brands offering me rewards; they are simply acknowledging my purchasing history or interaction with them at some point. Inversely, some brands for which I should be a stockholder (Target, Amazon.com, Borders, or even the little boutique around the corner) I don’t receive as much recognition from on my big day.

Where is the reciprocated love or recognition?

If there is enough of an understanding of the customer relationship to acknowledge me as a customer (think: regular e-mails), then it should be a consideration point to recognize events where you can create more meaningful and personal experiences with your customers. Coming from the marketing industry, this is something I would expect would come naturally, especially from brands I purchase from regularly.

Additionally, it is something I would expect from beyond commerce-driven brands, such as those I pay hefty amounts to on a monthly basis (State Farm, Chase, and even the daycare center I use). While they may not be making an effort to fuel my spending habits with them, they should still be working to maintain my loyalty – a significant part of the customer relationship and brand affinity.

Perhaps one of the most surprising examples of brand affinity/customer relationship initiatives came most recently from Wells Fargo. While visiting the ATM, the screen came up with balloons saying “Happy Birthday.” Simple, easy, and brilliant! How great to see an organization (in this case, a brand that not too long ago went through a major brand overhaul) using its customer data to improve an experience, create a meaningful relationship, increase sales and retention…and now receive accolades in a public forum through a “props” in this column.

It’s important to recognize all consumer touch points, both the push and pull, and capitalize on those simple instances where we can create these experiences (through the recognition of messages, advertisements, applications, etc.). These are all part of the relationship and perception consumers have of brands.

As marketers, it is important to recognize instances where we can create these experiences with current or potential customers.

In a recent Adweek/Harris Poll, 43 percent of those that responded ignore or disregard online banner ads. And why wouldn’t they when often it’s considered parallel to spam – regarding message irrelevancy. Online ads are often perceived as a necessary evil for consumers, something in which they have little choice but to “experience”; however, they are tolerated with the hopes and anticipation of receiving valuable, free content. What if online banners could be more relevant to you and your online habits and needs – serving value (from coupons to content)?

With technology advancements and the need for marketers to attribute sales back within the advertising model, targeting is becoming a more relevant and critical piece of the picture, overall increasing engagement and ROI. In fact, according to a December 2010 AudienceScience and DigiDay study titled “Audience Targeting State of the Targeting Industry,” in the last seven months of 2010, there was a 60 percent increase in the use of behavioral targeting, with nearly 83 percent of those surveyed using this technique.

The ability for advertisers to marry behavioral targeting with other forms of advanced targeting, such as creative, allows the message to be a more relevant, useful, and valuable experience.

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