Yesterday, I read a very interesting article about research showing that more than half (51%) of online advertising reaches a completely irrelevant audience. “Non-category” audiences, they were called. This means they had never even made a purchase in the product category in question.
Then today there were two marketing emails that got under my skin. One was from a company that used “Re: Infographic” in the subject line. I occasionally send emails following up to information in infographics, so this was somewhat plausible. Turned out, it was for how to earn $36,000 online in a day or something. Instead of just spamming it, I replied and called the guy out on being dishonest. I couldn’t believe his reply:
We’re quite sorry for this. I know it does pose a very negative image to us. I’ll make sure that email coordination are closely monitored to refrain from this ever happening again. Please accept my apologies.
Good thing I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee at the time. I would have spit it across my keyboard.
Okay, he’s a spammer. But I also received one from a reputable company this morning too. The subject line was “Quick question.” I didn’t recognize the sender, but it was an individual not a company. I was skeptical, but that’s a pretty personal subject line. It’s possible it was from someone asking about an article, looking for a source, or checking my schedule for potential work. I opened it to find an advertisement for a seminar. Quick question — want to attend a seminar? Want to buy golf balls? Want to earn $36,000 in a day?
Online marketing is ripe for misleading and downright dishonest subject lines, poor targeting, and misuse. It’s not online’s fault.That’s why we have spam regulations and opt-out and unsubscribe links. Professional, well-designed online and email advertising can be really helpful, too. At the same time, the channel is an invitation for abuse.
What if, in a world in which people are increasingly mistrustful of what they receive online, print were marketed as the “honest” channel? You can put “Re:” in a headline if you want, but no one is going to mistake it for a reply. You can put “Quick Question” on there, too, and the recipient won’t think it’s a personal communication. If you open a junk mail envelope, you won’t end up on a spammer’s list simply because you broke the seal.
Print is what you see is what you get (most of the time). That can be very refreshing in the online world where what you see is not always what you get. What if we made that part of the dialog about the benefits of print?