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Does your marketing push customers away?

Does your marketing push customers away?

As marketers, we tend to measure the positive impact of our marketing. The numbers of customers, for example, who redeem coupons from an email, follow us on social media, or click-through a digital ad. The impact on the rest of the customer base is assumed to be neutral.

However, this can be a dangerous assumption. Marketing can also inadvertently push some customers away.

For example, I originally found with Clubcard that too many indiscriminate mailings would prompt some customers to leave the program. And recent studies have shown that the tolerance for such indiscriminate mailings is now at an all-time low, driven by Millennials. Not unreasonably, they expect the content to be tailored in return for sharing their details with the brand.

When it comes to digital advertising, surveys suggest that customers either don’t care about or actively dislike the use of targeted ads, which seem to follow them across websites and apps. And perhaps of most concern, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that many customers actually resent the amount of information being collected on them by brands, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

With customer relationships being an ever more valuable asset for a business, this a dangerous place to be. So as well as monitoring the positives of marketing, it's prudent to put some common-sense steps in place to limit the downside. Here are three that come to mind:

  1. Measure the negatives as well as the positives of marketing activity. For example, the email unsubscribe rate should sit alongside the coupon redemption and email opening rates.
  2. Only collect data that you need to provide customers with real value (targeted advertising is only of real value to marketers), and clearly explain to them why you need it.
  3. Give your customers more control over their relationship with the brand. For example, let them determine how often they want emails from you, or opt-out from your cookie policy.

What other steps would you take to ensure your marketing's not pushing customers away?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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