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The Fine Line Between Bothersome and Well Received

  Paul Clement

When was the last time you received an email, a flyer or voice message that you were genuinely excited to receive? Now, how often do you get marketing collateral that you literally throw out as it enters your inbox? Perhaps you subscribed to that monthly newsletter wanting to know about upcoming events for your favourite brand but now these messages are nothing more than an annoyance. What happened between being interested in your favourite brand and becoming apathetic to their efforts to keep in touch?

The question is, where is the balance between annoying and inceptive? I have received warm heartfelt thank you emails from customers that appreciate the updates but also have been verbally thrashed by others for delivering the similar message. It seems like as marketers we are supposed to instinctively know when to reach out to our customers.

I can’t begin to list the number of theories, premises, or doctrines that exist when it comes to achieving success in marketing. That won’t be the purpose of this post. What I would like to talk about are the factors that I think play a part in creating the perfectly received message. Timing, context sensitivity, personalization, and creativity are what I believe to be the most important elements. Each of these factors are essential in creating an impactful brand or marketing message but as all things in life, too much or not enough can result in a faltering effort as well.


The famous Yogi Bera once said, “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” To me, nothing is truer in marketing. The best ads are always the simplest and best timed. They are not overly complex and they always hit their mark at just the right moment to trigger an emotion. If you think about it, timing is really everything. If you are launching a new product and do not give the message enough runway prior to launch, then you are missing out on a lot of opportunity for feedback or sales. Simply stated, there is no sense in selling an umbrella to someone who is completely soaked.

Context Sensitivity

In other words, getting exactly what you need, when you need it. When its wedding season, you need a 50% off suits sale. When an election is coming, you need a summary of the candidates and their platforms. During your fantasy football draft you need a cheat sheet (and maybe some blind luck). I think you get the idea. There is really nothing better than getting something exactly when you need it. I love getting a text message from Rogers letting me know that I am close to using all my data near the end of the month. That is useful. What is less useful is getting the bill the following month and wondering where those extra charges came from…


Where my previous two variables were tied to a timeframe and delivery of your message, personalization takes a little more creativity and finesse. You want to be welcoming and interested in the client’s wellbeing but don’t want to seem desperate or too personal, so what is the proper approach? Very personal messages sent from people I really don’t know are a turn off. If you have a history of communication or have met, then it might be appropriate to share an anecdote or be more personal. The real way to connect with a client is to provide something they want or need and your insight into that need. It will go farther than a joke in an email.


The last variable that I want to talk about is as diverse as people are. There are so many ways to be creative that I really become heated when I watch what is essentially a cookie-cutter commercial. It’s the same recipe that countless companies have used before to deliver their product. Creativity can be used at so many points along a product’s cycle. For example, during delivery, design, messaging, branding and packaging. All these things can be personalized in some way to appeal to each person or group.

These four points that I have outlined are factors that I have found to have an effect, even on myself. Maybe others have worked on you more than the ones I’ve mentioned because different things make us tick. That is probably the biggest challenge marketers have. There may never be the perfect ad, message, or tagline that connects everyone but we can continue to try.

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