Mae West said that too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Obviously Ms. West was never on the receiving end of the avalanche of marketing messages consumers now receive. And now recent research from Upstream and YouGov show just how bad an impression a deluge can make.
According to the 2012 Digital Advertising Attitudes Report, a study of adults 18 and over in the U.S. and U.K., a big percentage of people would stop using a product or service if they received too much advertising for it: 27 percent of those in the U.K. and 20 percent of the U.S. respondents.
It's a "major backlash," according to the study, that badly dovetails with the finding that nearly two-thirds of online consumers in both the U.S. and U.K. already feel that they are targeted by "excessive digital advertising and promotions."
In other words, people increasingly feel stalked and when they feel stalked they want to run in the other direction. That will likely only get worse as mobile marketing to cell phones and tablets begins to gear up. Roughly two-thirds of the people surveyed said they would dislike getting ads on their mobile devices.
The problems of perceived over-targeting doesn't stop with the 20 to 25 percent that say they would stop using a product or service, as you can see in this table:
Two-thirds of consumers say at the very least they would unsubscribe from a brand's promotions if the company delivered too many of them. About 28 percent of people in the U.S. and 37 percent in the U.K. would begin to respond negatively to further marketing from the company in question. One in 10 would take to protesting on social media sites.
This is just an extension of a similar problem in social media marketing. It's not difficult to understand. How often have you become frustrated with email newsletters, promotional tweets, daily deal alerts, and the mountain of marketing messages you receive in a day?
Each company wants to deliver its unique sale pitch and value proposition and with enough frequency that they won't be forgotten. But it's the corporate equivalent of the loudmouth at the cocktail party who won't stop talking. Eventually, people try to avoid eye contact, look for others to speak with, and otherwise do their best to avoid an annoying boor.
There are steps to take. In the U.S., 55 percent of consumers didn't want more than one message a month, although those between the ages of 18 and 24 were open to contact as frequently as once a week. When asked what would make them more likely to respond, 26 percent said marketing tailored to personal interests and 21 percent said that the material would have to be contextually relevant to what they were doing. At the same time, don't depend too heavily on those insights, because consumers could also react badly if they sense whiffs of cyber stalking.
The key is to communicate in moderation—enough to stay in touch, but not so much that your brand becomes the pariah in their inbox. At parties or in business, good taste goes a long way.