Creepy Marketing and Social Media: How to Scare Away Your Customers for Good

Halloween is around the corner, so for this week’s post I wanted to turn to a topic that is most definitely apropos: creepy marketing. No, we’re not talking about marketing for Halloween.
What’s creepy marketing, you might ask? Creepy marketing is what happens when personalization goes horribly wrong—when good intentions morph into, well, disturbing communication that has the opposite of its intended effect and, instead of helping a brand push a product or service, sends recipients running for the hills. With the rise of social media and its nearly universal adoption by marketers, it’s high time that marketers learn what not to do when they engage with their customers and prospects.

Fact is, marketers use personalization because it works extremely well. How well? Generally, the more you personalize a message the better it will perform. In a landmark study by Banta Corp. on multichannel marketing, it was reported that incorporating three or four personalized elements in an email boosted its clickthrough rate by 63 percent, and seven or more elements lifted it by an amazing 318 percent!

Wow! With stats like these, you can see why marketers of all stripes have been jumping on the personalization bandwagon like it’s going out of style. During the past few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of personalized content across the marketing spectrum—direct mail, email, SMS, landing pages … all spiced up by including personalized content or messaging. Out of all of this personalized communication, some has been good, some has been great … and some has been downright creepy.

Last year, I put out a post titled “Creepy Marketing—When Database Marketing Goes Awry,” in which I defined creepy marketing as “if it looks creepy and feels creepy, then it probably is creepy and you shouldn’t do it.” I then go on to point out that an actual example of creepy marketing includes writing out a customer’s name along with other personally identifiable information anywhere visible to the general public. I also include displaying a customer’s age, marital status or medical condition in marketing messaging.

Who’s Your Data? is a blog that aims to disseminate thought-provoking tips and techniques involving the use of data and database marketing to direct marketing professionals. Why should you care? Because implementing data best practices has been shown to lift response rates, improve analytics and enhance overall customer experience. Reader participation is encouraged!

Rio Longacre is a Sales & Marketing Professional with more than 10 years of experience in the direct marketing trenches. He has worked closely with businesses across many different vertical markets, helping them effectively leverage the use of data, personalization technologies and tracking platforms. Longacre is currently employed as a Managing Consultant, Marketing, Sales & Service Consulting at Capgemini Consulting, a premier management consulting firm. He is based in the company's New York City office, which is located in Midtown Manhattan. He has also previously worked as an online media buyer and digital marketing strategist.

Email Longacre below, or you can follow him on Twitter at @RioLongacre. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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Comments
  • John Kreiss

    Marketer sometimes do more to scare people then attract them. It’s like going out on a blind date, and proposing before the meal arrives.

  • RioLongacre

    The creepiest social campaign I have ever seen was by Olla Condoms. They targeted a number of random (and unlucky) young men on Facebook, creating Facebook profiles to send them friend requests. The friend requests were from their imaginary unborn sons. The company took the names of the young men and tacked a Jr onto it, for example John Smith, Jr. The friend request was accompanied by a message promoting the use of Olla condoms. Now that’s creepy!

    You can read more about it here: http://memeburn.com/2011/11/olla-condoms-facebook-campaign/

  • Dennis Moore

    This is pretty creepy – New LG TV Promo- http://youtu.be/NeXMxuNNlE8
    Saw it on CNN yesterday

  • Frish

    CREEPIEST MARKETING – "WE AGREE" (Chevron, of course they agree, they wrote the ad…)