Marketing in sheep’s clothing

Looney Tunes

Marketing has such a poor reputation that it now has to pretend to be customer service.

And it makes me hopping mad.

For example . . .

  • I got a letter from Spectrum, my internet provider, that said “Important information about your account.” Inside, a generic offer to upgrade my service.
  • My doctor’s office used MyChart, a patient portal, to advertise its programs.
  • CVS texts me when my prescription is ready — and also to bug me to get a flu shot.

The reason is simple. We all want to open customer service messages from our current providers. We are far more likely to ignore marketing messages.

The marketers at these organizations have determined that they can increase their open rates and response rates if they use customer service channels to do marketing. They know we’ll open the customer service messages, and let them in the back door.

For every person that responds to such an offer, there are a dozen or a hundred more that, like me, just get angry.

We’ve all gotten pretty good at differentiating marketing messages from customer service — and as a result, marketers have needed to get better at disguising marketing as customer service.

This problem has consequences. I recently received a letter from my investment company. It looked like all the other letters — you know, like marketing and other stupid notifications that I could ignore. Then I called my investment advisor and said, “Hey, you owe me a check from the college fund.” “I had them send it,” he responded. “I never got it,” I replied. So he cut me another check. Weeks later, when opening and tossing all that junk mail, I found out that one of those letters had the missing check in it.

My bad — or had I been conditioned by marketers to ignore letters, including the important ones?

There are companies that don’t do this. I recently bought furniture from Jordan’s Furniture, which has excellent service. I get marketing emails from them. I get delivery notifications from them. But I never get a delivery notification masquerading as customer service.

Stop polluting your customer channels

Marketers should take a pledge never to do this. If your marketing is not good enough to stand on its own, then it certainly isn’t good enough to pollute your customer service channels.

Customer service managers should fight back. They should get a company policy in place that no marketing can masquerade as customer service. Because when it does, that degrades the company’s customer service ratings. (And, as in the case of my investment company, it can cause customers to ignore important service content.)

Any marketing based on deception is reprehensible. If you’re doing this, stop immediately. If your company is doing it, resign and get a better job with a company with better ethics. There are more openings than workers right now — this is the perfect time to make your stand.

Or heck, you can keep trying to get one person to sign up for your offer by fooling a hundred others.

But how will you look at yourself in the mirror?

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