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You’re in My Personal Space…

September 03, 2019

I was just invited to a webinar to learn how business-to-business marketers can utilize text messaging to greater effect.  While it’s obviously no secret that many target consumers continue migrating to mobile consumption of information, I wonder if we are approaching a virtual precipice. Is there in fact a line across which business messaging should not pass for fear of consumer backlash? Most marketers believe that their message has value and will resonate positively with the target consumer, but it is vital that we present the message without evoking the resentment of the very people they are trying to impress.

Advertising in one form or another is expected on most digital platforms. Unfortunately, as app developers (and investors) look for ways to monetize their ideas (and investments), the result is often more intrusive forms of communications. Recent developments inject ads into the middle of popular online videos without considering the impact on the viewer. You see, traditional television programming is designed to segue between plot and marketing - without that transition, the viewer is abruptly force-fed marketing messages and viewers often see this as a violation. The same was true when app developers inserted pop-ups in the middle of “free” games.

So, the quandary for many in marketing is when is it ok to present our brand to Mary or Sam. The questions is even more complicated when you conduit is business-to-business. Even if Sam is the director of purchasing and Mary is the chief operating officer, both of them still have lives outside of work. Is it okay to intrude on their personal lives and, if so, when can you do it? Where does the consumer draw the line and how do marketers dare get to that line?

We know that e-mails aren’t safe, and their effectiveness depends on a lot of work and variables. But we crossed that chasm years ago.  We know that Facebook’s success in aggregating members led to revenue of over $55 billion in 2018.  Interestingly, the fastest growing component of Facebook’s revenue is Instagram – historically one of the least invasive social media platforms.  But, at some point when Sam or Mary are browsing Instagram for personal reasons, do they resent the intrusion of targeted brand messaging aimed at them?  The other, maybe more important question is whether their frustration is higher when the messaging is work-related.

We all expect that even business apps will contain targeted B2B advertising – especially when we’re using a free version. LinkedIn was built for business networking and has evolved into a mechanism for acquaintance-based selling. Naturally, we expect to discuss and conduct business through that platform.  But when Mary is on Pinterest looking at design ideas for her new condo, does she want to be identified with her business life?  If Sam is gaming online with his kids, should ads touting asset management or purchasing software be able to intrude on daddy-time?

Marketing has always been about attracting attention.  Technology enables us to choose between attracting the mass audience or small targets (maybe even individuals) for our messages.  Mary and Sam may each have a different tolerance for messaging - but being humans likely means they do have one.  Marketers have always been quick to tap into human emotions for brand awareness and preference.  The question today is whether marketers can read those emotions well enough to find and respect human boundaries so as to endear our B2B brands to consumers.

marketing, boundaries, messaging, message, advertising
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