Skip navigation
It's time to stop selling with your marketing

It's time to stop selling with your marketing

It's hardly a secret that customers are increasingly wary of being sold to — ad blockers anyone? — but the evidence still keeps growing. A recent Harris Poll study revealed that direct targeting via ads on social media can actually lose you customers. Adobe has just released a "Customer Fatigue Dashboard" to help brands avoid alienating customers through too much marketing. And according to a recent Accenture survey, 40% of people would even be prepared to pay to stop being interrupted by advertising.

The advertising industry's proposed solution to this seems to be a combination of better creative that will entertain customers, and hyper-targeted advertising that they’ll find more relevant. But with so many genuine entertainment choices already available, this is a daunting creative challenge. And hyper-targeted advertising still interrupts, and can feel creepy.

An alternative and perhaps more realistic approach is to make your marketing itself useful to customers, so that it helps them in their lives. There are a number of ways to do this:

1. Marketing that reduces friction. Starbucks struck customer gold by integrating mobile payment and ordering with their loyalty program. How can your marketing make the supermarket experience dramatically easier for customers?


Like the Supermarket News page for updates throughout the day.

2. Marketing that inspires. Sephora's Virtual Artist app, which allows customers to see what any shade of lipstick would look like on their face, has been very popular. Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer certainly inspires, and with food offering so many opportunities, what could be your Sephora equivalent?

3. Marketing that educates. The success of Skillshare, Udemy and the like demonstrate that people have a thirst to learn. Health and wellness, cooking and frugal living are just some of the many opportunities within food to educate customers.

The underlying point is that the marketing itself is centered on being helpful to customers, rather than on selling. Yet although many supermarkets now have health and wellness programs, meal planning and cooking classes, a look across the most visible aspects of supermarket marketing (flyers, websites, advertising) still reveals an industry dominated by selling.

In a world where customers are evermore wary of being sold to, surely it’s time to consider how your marketing itself could help your customers?

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

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.