Manners for Marketers + Humorous Examples

Recently, I watched a woman put a snap lid top fountain drink through the security scanner at the local courthouse (I’m innocent … I was there for jury duty). The drink easily tipped over and spilled clear soda all over the belt. Yes, it was a dumb move but what really shocked me was watching her stand there for a good five minutes without offering to help clean up or apologize to the long line of people waiting in the rainy street. And I thought to myself in a Southern accent, “Oh my land! Where are your manners?”

And that got me thinking. As the line between offline and online fades, and the amount of available data swells and customers’ expectations rise, where are we forgetting our marketing manners? Where do we ignorantly cause confusion and delay and remain unapologetic? The digital customer has more power than ever. Causing offense has a clear economic impact and is not something to take lightly.

Here are a few rules of thumb for marketing to people (not devices or channels) complete with links to my favorite humorous examples.

3 Rules of Thumb for Marketing Manners:

1)      Listen carefully. I love this example from If Google Was a Guy. You’ll need to go 35 seconds in to see the bit with Siri and spaghetti. If we were casually chatting at a cocktail party, and I gave you bits of information about myself, would you continue to ask me the same questions again? If you did, I am sure I would make a speedy retreat. Yet, this is what we do every time we force digital customers to repeat their actions. You can see it when visitors churn around and around through the same actions such as landing on a product page, searching, viewing more products, searching, and searching again. It is as if they are hammering the app or the site in a vain attempt to be heard. Let’s remember to use what all that data is telling us.  


2)      Seek ways to help. This video is a classic from Google Analytics. It illustrates shopping cart frustration. If the height of frustration 3 years ago was the shopping cart, today it must be the mobile app. This is such a fantastic contextual tool, yet most companies treat it as another webpage. What a fantastic opportunity to help! Here’s a short example from Tesco.  Notice there are no clunky click menus or mobile ads blocking my already tiny screen. When we make digital consumers lives easier, we should spike the marketing football and do the touchdown dance. This is modern marketing at its best.  


3)      Please stop hounding me. Here is a treasure-trove of marketing comics I enjoy, especially this one from Tom Fishburne. Yes, I know there is a measurable lift often achieved through remarketing ads but let’s be careful – especially if you have the ability to know a purchase has occurred. A recent hotel ad hounded me all over the internet this way, begging me to book the room I already had. And it’s not just paid search ads. Coursera sent an email last year asking me to enroll in a course in which I was currently enrolled. Let’s remember that goodwill (or brand equity) takes a long time to build but strikingly easy to ruin.  

As we get more comfortable trading personal data for convenience, we initiate a cultural shift. Does this mean we should stop asking permission or should we be even more careful? I land on the side of more manners. Let’s not imitate the woman who never asked, spilled and stood there. Let’s be the elegant marketer who asks permission before we initiate insult and apologize if we make a mistake. Let’s remember we are communicating to ourselves, to humans.