My in-box was ripe for spring cleaning so I spent a good hour the other day going through my e-mail. It occurred to me just how much “junk” I had accumulated. Some of it from newsletters with stale content. Unsubscribe. Some of the clutter came from CRM trails I had created from previous purchases from brands I bought or made the mistake of sharing my e-mail address. Haven’t opened them in months. Interruption marketing. Unsubscribe. Some of it was a mystery. How did they get my e-mail? Unsubscribe. I just started to make a dent in this frustrating, world of clutter.
But it also got me thinking about so much of what we do as marketers. With good intentions, we seek to “engage”. We create “outreach” and we hope to control a relationship. But a lot of what we create is more noise and clutter and a stiff arm from consumers. We create more work for consumers to clean up our clutter trail. Unsubscribe.
The fight for attention isn’t anything new. And it isn’t just confined to the inbox. The reality is that consumers are just too busy to pay attention to anything let alone one-way “push” and “control marketing” from brands. To wit, look at golf. More and more people are “unsubscribing” to a five hour round. Who has the time or patience anymore for five hours of, well, anything? Likewise, professional sports are seeing the same frustration as many fans can’t sit through a nine-inning baseball game. Indeed, even the NFL has become a chore to watch; 10 minutes of action wrapped in a 3 and a half hour TV package is wearing out. And NASCAR? Millenials have been driving their own race cars for a decade. Who needs bad seats to see cars going fast and left? Unsubscribe.
Beyond clutter, new value propositions, often enabled by technology, challenge the status quo and are playing a role in this unsubscribe movement. Who needs a $200 a month cable bill when Netflix and other alternatives deliver more value? Unsubscribe. And unplug. Who needs a magazine subscription to a weekly or monthly magazine when news and entertainment is delivered free and in real-time on mobile devices? Cancel my subscription.
The solution? Brands need to appeal to a world of busy consumers with short attention spans who have more control of the value exchange. Golf and professional sports franchises have noticed and are considering changes. Instead of 18 holes, how about 13 holes down at your local course at a deep discount on greens fees? Or, how about a 7 inning game of baseball? MLB is looking into it despite the cries of the gray flannel traditionalists. Even America’s favorite past-time, the NFL and its’ owners, are looking to improve the fan experience with new ad forms, some from soccer, to speed pace of play from commercial interruptions.
The point is, in a high distraction world where time is a commodity as valuable as money to many folks, all brands can win with more of a “subscription” mindset. Sometimes we need to stop and think if what we’re doing is creating value for the consumer or just the opposite. Instead of an e-mail campaign, maybe we can re-deploy those funds to create better customer service? Instead of interrupting consumers, maybe we listen to what their unmet needs might be and create a better product feature or a better user experience via a convenient app. And do we really need a daily Facebook post with little value when a well-researched, informative and educational piece of content might create more genuine interest? Instead of “reaching out” with self serving brand communication, why don’t we give consumers something of value?
And with the pace of technology and disruption, maybe we need more strategic consumer-driven solutions than trying to protect comfortable legacy models. Indeed, better to disrupt ourselves now, than having consumers or more progressive alternatives do it later. Today, it’s too easy for consumers to unsubscribe. As marketers, let’s create value with a subscription and consumer mindset.