Robby Fowler Articles

Avoid Throwaway Marketing ‘Like Never Before’

Blog Title Graphic: Avoid Throwaway Marketing ‘Like Never Before’
It was number two on my list of early morning errands. I’m not including dropping the youngest off at Junior High.

With my SAMs Club run complete, I was going to dart into a local hardware store. I’d only been there once, about three months ago. I was returning on the same mission this time around—batteries. This place has them dirt cheap.

I knew the exact location of the AAAs. Aisle 5, right up front, only a slight knee-bend away.

What I didn’t expect was a line at the register 5 tics past 8 a.m.

I walked past five anxious customers to my spot. I dipped and snagged 24 AAA batteries in a single move. With a quick pivot, I was in line.

The four patrons ahead of me had real items to purchase. Makes sense. They were real men. You could tell by looking. Worn hands. Red-and-black checkered plaid. Steel-toed boots. These are the real folks who make America run, rarely complain, and drink cheap black coffee.

I surveyed their carts. Luckily, no one had a stack of items. Only a cordless drill, replacement blade, compressor, and carjack stood between me and errand number three.

The fifth customer was headed out the sliding front door and on to his work site. I didn’t catch what tool or piece of equipment he had tucked under his arm.

The gal working the register was a few years removed from high school. She had multi-colored fingernails, young skin, black hair pulled in a ponytail, and a company nametag pinned to her apron. She wore a friendly smile for only being five minutes into her 8-hour work day.

The rest of the store was quiet. Like a pack of wolves, we all gathered at the register. We waited in line in line, all within earshot of the register.

She, however, morphed into a parrot. Each encounter at the register began in identical fashion.

“Are you receiving our coupons and catalog in the mail?” she squawked.

Grunt. (That was the unanimous reply from each patron.)

“And what’s that phone number, hon?” she repeated next.

I was living inside a scratched record. Once. Twice. Three times. Four. Zero variation.

  1. Are you receiving our coupons and catalog in the mail?…And what’s that phone number, hon?
  2. Are you receiving our coupons and catalog in the mail?…And what’s that phone number, hon?
  3. Are you receiving our coupons and catalog in the mail?…And what’s that phone number, hon?
  4. Are you receiving our coupons and catalog in the mail?…And what’s that phone number, hon?

Now it was my turn to feed the parrot.

‘Should I give my Google voice phone number or a fake work number?’ I thought in a bit of a panic as her “…catalog in the mail” line ended with a question mark.

“Uh-huh,” I lied.

“And what’s that phone number, hon?” she repeated next.

“870-867-5309,” I said with the face of a steelworker.

You Know What’s Worse Than No Marketing?…Throwaways…And Here Are 5 Reasons Why

As I walked to my car, I asked myself why that whole 5-minute experience felt so weird.

I knew this much. Saying nothing would’ve been better than what just happened.

Here are five quick marketing lessons that popped into my mind as I sat in my car. This is why no marketing is better than ‘throw-away marketing’…

Reason 1: You come off as blind to your customer. And your customer feels invisible.

You don’t need to read a single marketing book or sit through a single marketing class to get this. The guys in line at the store are NOT coupon clippers.

The catalog they snag from the mailbox involves camo or hunting or fly fishing. Everything else goes in the trash.

I watched carefully while trying not to look creepy. Or get caught. (These are not the fellas you want to get caught eyeballing.) Everything about the responses of the guys silently screamed, ‘Do I look like a coupon guy to you, lady?

Beneath the tough exterior shell, these customers felt invisible. It was as if the cashier couldn’t even see them.

If you filled out a customer avatar for these men, “coupon” or “catalog” would not be in the same continent.

Reason 2: What feels lazy to you also feels care-less to your customer.

Why say the same, predictable stuff over and over? Hello? Ms. Cashier, you know we can all hear you, right? I know what you said to that guy, and that guy, and that one, and him too.

The only person stoked about these Groundhog Day exchanges was some VP back at corporate. New company-wide initiative to incentivize customers to come back via direct-mail in Q1, check!

You say the same junk in your marketing when you don’t take the time or effort to create something new. Something clear. Something helpful.

If you launch a marketing campaign, pay attention. There’s nothing wrong with giving a new marketing plan a go. But have a Plan B. Make adjustments. Learn and then try something new or different.

As a living, breathing customer, I can tell you, when you don’t—it feels like you could care less.

Reason 3: What appears clean and easy for you to pull off can be annoying for your customer.

If the subversive, covert, reverse-psychology master plan of this marketing campaign was Annoy the customer to stay top-of-mind…well, congrats.

Mission accomplished. You even made my article.

Doubting that to be the case, customers get annoyed by throw-away marketing gobbly goop. I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes.

Reason 4: Fake solicits fake.

When you parrot the same marketing trash over and over, it screams fake. Like, is anybody watching? Is anyone back there paying attention to how ineffective and awkward this is?

By the time it was my turn at the register, I had my fake responses planned out. Reply 1, lie. Reply 2, make a joke that goes over her head.

She was fake. I was fake. (I get it. She was doing what she was told. But, just like every toddler can tell the fake TV remote from the real one, anyone could see the fake exchange happening here. Someone should step in, fast!)

Reason 5: You condition your customer to ignore you.

This is several rungs down the pay scale from ‘confusing your customer’. This is not you confusing them with unclear marketing. The customer heard you loud and clear. But it’s so predictable, so repetitive, so vanilla bean, they tune you out.

You turn customers into teenagers. They look you in the eye, see your mouth moving, pop in the noise-canceling earbuds you bought them and drown you out.

Throw away marketing teaches your customers to toss you in the trash.

“We Need a Clean Up in Marketing on Aisle 9”

The moral of this real-life story is simple. Avoid throwaway marketing.

Throw away marketing can ensnare you when…
    You have a new product launch (whether it’s a product or service)You run an annual sale (like New Years)You kick-off a seasonal marketing campaign
    As a bonus, here are some common throwaway marketing phrases I see over and over. They cause me to react in the ways I described above.

    Avoid these…

    Best [blank] ever…

    Ready for your best holiday party ever? Best meal ever? Best marriage ever? Yuck. Don’t hit me with that throw-away, especially when you did it last year or last time!

    Like never before…

    Help me do something easier or be something better. But don’t lie to me with a throwaway. When you tell me it’ll be ‘like never before’…I don’t believe you. Last time you said it would be like never before. And the time before that. So which is it?

    Did you rip me off last time? Or are you going to rip me off this time like never before?

    Our biggest [blank] ever…

    It’s not. It’s the same one you did last time. How dumb do I look? (Don’t answer that!)

    If I were good friends with the word ‘Ever’, I can’t imagine how mad he’d be. He’d be a hot mess all the time. The abuse he takes. The defamation of character. The robbing of meaning. No doubt he’d want to hit you with the biggest lawsuit ever.

    The punishment he’d seek in marketing court is: You are never allowed to use the word ‘ever’ EVER!

    If I gathered all the throwaway marketing advice in a pile, I’d summarize it like this:
      Avoid throwaway marketing you repeat involving exclusive claims. (Best, greatest, etc.)Avoid any marketing you repeat that’s gone stale. (Pay attention to your customers and make adjustments quickly.)

      Do this instead…

      Throw away your throwaways. Take a few minutes to say things differently in your marketing. Those few minutes may be the difference between foul, throw-away marketing and full-thrust-ahead marketing.