Oops, You Made It Weird. 5 Marketing Faux Pas to Watch Out For

If your marketing personality went to a party, would it make friends?

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You’ve readied your day-to-evening outfit, polished your shoes, and spit-shined your spectacles, because you’re on your way to a Friday evening party. Before you head out, consider taking off that marketer hat for this particular event. Instead, don your customer hat, because this professional cocktail mixer is a bit of a metaphorical choose-your-own-adventure: it’s a walk through various marketing personalities, where you’re the customer, and the party-goers represent the marketing personas we all encounter, and know well.

As you move through these marketing personalities, spot-check your own marketing messages. Whom do you most wish to avoid? What can you learn about your own marketing style by playing the customer for the evening?

Needy Nancy

Upon entering, you run smack into Nancy. We all know a Nancy. She comes on strong. There’s often some drama in her world: she’s full of urgency, so it’s hard to relax in her presence. She asks for too much of your time, seeks too much attention, won’t let you leave. She snares you into conversation, so that when you’re finally able to extricate, you spend the rest of the party avoiding her like an allergen.

Telltale signs of a Needy Nancy: It feels like Nancy is always asking for something. More of your time, more of your energy, likely some of your money, without offering you much in return. She takes more than she gives.

A needy marketer

Needy Nancy quick-fix: Nancy could use a realignment of priorities. As a marketer, if you ask more of your customer than you offer, it’s time to turn that tendency around. If you realize you’ve been a Needy Nancy, now’s a great time to regenerate some good faith by offering your customer something of value, possibly for free, that asks little of them in return.

As AdWeek suggests: don’t be annoying, don’t be needy, do add value.

Self-centered Sam

Once you’ve separated from Nancy, you’re drawn to Sam. He seems friendly, and you’re beguiled by his bright and welcoming nature. You head his way, but before long, you feel as though you’ve been tricked. You’ve become his unwitting captive, an audience to his monologue. He goes on about all the things he’s impressed with…about himself: his latest triumphs and accomplishments, what’s coming down the pike (for him), and what he’s looking forward to.

Telltale signs of a self-centered Sam: You know loads about him, and it’s clear that he doesn’t know much about you. The relationship lacks balance. You feel unseen, and he gets boring pretty quickly.

Self-centered marketer

Self-centered Sam quick-fix: Know your audience, and keep them front and center in your mind the whole way through the marketing process. If you already have a solid brand story, and you’re already creating and targeting marketing personas at the beginning of a campaign, great work! Try not to forget these things as the tendency toward self-centered marketing creeps in. Some folks like to tape the name of their customer persona to an empty chair so that the customer has a physical representation in the room.

However you get there, remember: it’s not about you.

Awkward Aaron

After a fresh cocktail and some artisanal baked wings, you take pity on Aaron, and approach. Aaron is famous for his bad jokes and inelegant repartee, most of which fall flat. He seems like a nice enough guy, but his efforts feel like social mud slung at blank wall: whatever sticks! Except not much does.

Telltale signs of an Awkward Aaron: You like weird when it works, but Aaron’s manner is just a bit too offbeat. He feels impossible to connect with. There’s an uncomfortable disconnect between what he thinks is funny, and what most people think is funny. His timing is off, with responses and reactions more than a beat or two out of sync with the people around him. He reacts too loudly, too late, or not at all.

An awkward marketer

Awkward Aaron quick-fix: Humor in marketing can work wonders, when it’s done well. The best step to finding the humor sweet-spot? A second pair of eyes. And maybe a third as well. Jessica Ann, CEO and Creative Director of her own eponymous digital agency says, “If you’re not a naturally funny person, you don’t want to force being funny.” But if you are, even a little bit, bring that into your work. And, a few words of wisdom we echo: “Just make sure that someone edits your words before they see the world.”

As for timing, a 2015 study found that “well-crafted, well-timed messaging sent to app users increased engagement by up to 22%.” Since engagement is largely believed to be the most crucial task in mobile, and good timing increases engagement, it’s a no brainer that devoting a bit of effort toward getting your timing right makes sense. An especially important instance to remember timing: whenever you’re newsjacking in your marketing. If there’s a big social or pop culture happening, and your brand can ethically and elegantly ride that wave, go for it—thoughtfully.

Inauthentic Iggy

After a few moments smiling awkwardly to appease Aaron, you observe Iggy, but you keep her at a distance. You know poor Iggy from the last party. She just doesn’t seem to know how to be herself. One moment, she embodies the horn-rimmed earnestness of an urban beekeeper. The next, she emulates the floral whimsy of an Anthropologie junkie. She’s hard to pin down. Her jokes fall flat. She doesn’t seem to know who she is.

Telltale signs of an Inauthentic Iggy: She often appears to be bending and shaping herself to appeal to whoever she thinks you are, and it gives you the sense that she really has no idea who she is. Her style comes across as disjointed and chaotic, and you prefer more grounded company.

An inauthentic marketer

Inauthentic Iggy quick-fix: We’ve written loads about authenticity, staying true to yourself, and finding the higher purpose in your product or company so that its brand story means something to you. We’ve also written about keeping it real in house so that you’re able to project a sincere sense of self in your customer-facing messages. Consumers are far more likely to engage with brands they believe they can trust, and no one trusts an Inauthentic Iggy.

Disengaged Danny

Danny stands off to the side, but this doesn’t seem strange on its own. Some people are more naturally inclined to hang in the periphery. There’s value there too—not everyone enjoys a constant spotlight. You find your way over to say hello. Danny offers a polite, “How’s it going?” It’s a good start, and you begin to answer, delighted that someone is finally listening… until you realize that he isn’t. Midway through your response, Danny’s eyes drift up and away to scan some other part of the room.

Telltale signs of a Disengaged Danny: He’s there, feigning interest, but you can tell he’s not really with you. He asks some more questions, and when you answer, you realize that your attempt to have a balanced exchange is falling on deaf or distracted ears. You’re inclined to check out of the conversation, and stay gone.

A disengaged marketer

Disengaged Danny quick-fix: Just like relationship between people, relationships between a customer and a brand are better when there’s give and take, and real conversation. Consider reading up on what relationship marketing is, and how to get it right. Spoiler alert: listening well is the first order of business.

Be yourself. Keep it real. And Listen.

If this party sounds like a bit of a dud, no doubt that it would be… We can only hope that scattered among these personalities are good listeners, deep engagers, and patient conversationalists.

You may be a marketer, but it’s not hard to stay connected to how the customer might perceive you, since you yourself are a marketed-to, mobile-using, app-downloading customer. In the party that is your own mobile-centric experience, who inspires you, and who gets deleted to make room for more photos?

Those who tend to win real-life social interactions, as well as those who tend to really get mobile marketing right, are great at the communication game. They’re humble, genuinely interested in other people, and open to new ideas. And, no surprise, they’re not chasing company; people flock naturally to them.

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