I recently bought a pizza.
That is to say, being a modern, digitally-enabled, and technologically-advanced consumer unit, I ordered two pizzas online from Domino’s.
I ordered for pick up, not delivery, because there’s a Domino’s store reasonably nearby and I could drive there to pick them up. Then they’d still be really hot when I got them home. And hey, I could save a couple of bucks, too. I like to think I’m sensible that way. (My wife says I’m just being cheap).
Regardless of my gastronomic (and economic) motives, ordering those pizzas turned out to have unforeseen consequences.
I hadn’t just walked into my local pizza shop for a couple of large ‘Hot & Spicy’. Foolishly, I had thrown off the protective cloak of suburban anonymity.
I was now on Domino’s mailing list.
‘Pizza, pizza!’ ‘Pizza, pizza!’ ‘Pizza, pizza!’
A free lunch? Clearly, there’s no such thing. Cheap perhaps, but not free.
I know this for sure, because every single day for the next two weeks I got an email from them advertising assorted ‘special deals’.
I don’t know about you but, much as I like pizza, the idea of eating it every day is a bit toomuch.
That thought obviously didn’t occur to Domino’s. They seemed to think I wanted to. Maybe that’s their Marketing Department’s idea of the ‘ideal’ customer.
After a couple of weeks of this daily nagging, I decided that enough was enough. I’d unsubscribe from their mailing list.
The Domino’s flyers that get dropped into my mailbox would have to suffice to whet my appetite. I usually get one of those once a week anyway.
So I hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of the latest email. That took me to a page on their website which gave me a number of options.
One of which was to choose how frequently I got their promotional emails.
Did I want them daily? This seemed (at least in my case) to be the default setting. Alternatively, if I chose to, I could get them every couple of days, once a week, or once a month.
While I appreciate being offered the choice, Domino’s seems to overlook the fact that bombarding me with daily emails from the very start of our relationship got me annoyed enough to want to end it completely.
And they did that before they offered to tone it down a bit.
If it’s such a simple choice – i.e. not to piss off the customer so much they want to run away – then why leave it up to the pissed-off customer to make it?
Isn’t that what the CRM people and the digital marketing team get paid the big bucks for? (I don’t have an answer for that).
How much is enough?
It’s one of the great philosophical questions. How much do you need to be happy?
How much pizza do you need to be happy? And in pursuit of cheesy, gooey happiness, how often does the average Domino’s customer buy? Once a week, perhaps? A couple of times a month? Maybe there are ‘heavy users’ who buy several times a week. But I suspect that ‘every day’ is by far the thinnest slice on their ‘user frequency’ pie chart.
If that’s the case, why is ‘every day’ the default setting for their promotional emails?
(Obligatory pie chart)
The cost of cheap.
Maybe because, in this case, the cost of ‘media’ is so cheap.
Now Domino’s have got my email address they can reach me directly, easily, and very cheaply. Certainly, a lot cheaper than running ads on my TV. Or even dropping leaflets into my mailbox.
So how did it all go so wrong, so fast?
Maybe the email marketing program has been completely automated, with nobody actually overseeing this stuff any more. Just a computer that relentlessly pumps out ‘content’. Maybe the only humans left at Domino’s are out delivering pizzas – at least until the drones take over.
I don’t know why. But I do know nobody gave it much thought. Not even to answer the most basic question for any form of marketing communication: How much is enough?
Once, you couldn’t really afford to annoy people.
I mean that quite literally.
In the bygone era of ‘traditional’ mass media buying – last week, say – reach was expensive. So it tended to come at the expense of frequency.
Put simply, you could reach a lot of people with your ads, but you couldn’t afford to reach them very often. So even the most irritating ads never got too annoying. You didn’t see them often enough for that.
In the ‘new’ media, reach and frequency have become inverted.
Now that there are so many more ‘new’ channels – and so few with the huge audience reach of old – that relationship has become inverted.
In this brave new world of ‘121 communications’, ‘customised marketing’ and ‘precision targeting’, brands don’t seem as concerned with trying to reach as many people as possible. Once they have made a connection and captured your data, the subsequent cost of reach is almost zero. So they’re perfectly happy to reach the same few over and over again.
Ads, emails, all that ‘content’, the Facebook posts, the Tweets, all the other digital social media, all that ‘bite-sized’ messaging, all following our trail of cookie crumbs round the internet like Hansel and Gretel, and landing directly in our inboxes and feeds.
It all seems quite innocuous, but it all adds up. Eventually it adds up to ‘overload’.
In the case of Domino’s and me, ‘eventually’ turned out to be about ten days.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should …
My first boss told me that advertising is a guest in people’s lives and their living rooms. So it needs to abide by the same rules of hospitality that apply to all guests:
Don’t be rude. Don’t shout. Don’t argue. Don’t be a bully. Don’t be a bore. And if you can’t be entertaining, at the very least be polite.
There’s still, even in the Digital Age, a lot of truth to this analogy. Ignoring these basic rules can wear out your welcome very quickly indeed.
How much is enough for you?
If you’re running an email marketing program like Domino’s, I’d suggest you have a closer look at it.
Start by looking at your ‘unsubscribe’ rate. Are you losing a lot of people? How soon after they’ve signed on do they try to sign off?
Maybe it’s the default frequency you’re operating on. Never mind how cheap it is to buy infinite frequency, have you simply become too annoying?
Ask yourself: “How much is just enough to keep both of us happy?”
Less is nearly always more.
(Except for pepperoni on a pizza. In that case, only more is more).