Message Relevancy Is Key to Avoiding Marketing Fatigue

Are you suffering from database erosion? Are you experiencing decreased response rates? If so, your audience may be showing signs of marketing fatigue. “Marketing fatigue” (otherwise known as email fatigue) is a condition that many digital marketers are encountering lately.

Marketing fatigue is a major concern! Digital marketers like you and me are pressured to increase the number of messages in order to drive revenue. If you consider the marketing “rule of seven,” where a consumer must be touched seven times before he considers purchasing from you, we are left with a lot of messages to deliver.Can we deliver all these messages but do it in a way that reduces marketing fatigue? Yes!

The Evidence Speaks

There is evidence that explains how and why marketing fatigue occurs. The phenomenon was the subject of a first-of-its-kind empirical research study conducted by Andrea Micheaux, an associate professor at the University Management School (IAE) in Lille, France (“Managing E-mail Advertising Frequency from the Consumer Perspective,”_Journal of Advertising,_volume 40, number 4, 2011, pp. 45–66).Over a three-month period, Micheaux was allowed by a consumer credit company to create, test,and analyze email campaigns for nearly 15,000 consumers. The results were published in the prestigious Journal of Advertising. The study shows that by anticipating message relevancy, we can improve our response rate while increasing the number of email messages to each recipient—and lower the incidence of marketing fatigue.

I must include a disclaimer here. Let me be crystal clear: Micheaux does not claim that her results indicate that an email strategy I suggest here will work at all times under any circumstance.Though I will not go into too much detail about the statistical methods she used to test hundreds of combinations using thousands of emails, I will tell you that the conclusions she reached may change the way wecreate and plan our marketing campaigns.

Micheaux examined how consumers handled email messaging within a two-phase decision tree. The two phases were (1) action taken upon receipt of the message (specifically, once the subject line was read) and (2) action taken once the content of the message was viewed. She also examined consumers’ viewpoints about a brand following this decision process.

Micheaux found a common practice consumers follow when they are faced with myriad email messages on a daily basis. How do consumers react? The image below traces the decision-making process that consumers take.

Laxalt-fatigue copy

What does this show? Marketing fatigue is linked to the level of effort required to read messages rather than the actual number of messages received.

Analysis of emails revealed that when email recipients judged content as “highly relevant,” they were less likely to complain about message frequency and volume, more likely to have a positive attitude about the brand, and less likely to unsubscribe or move messages to spam.

When consumers found a message subject line relevant upon initial judgment, they would make an effort to open the message. Once opened, if the content was judged as relevant, they would take additional action, such as visiting a Web site. On the flip side, once consumers elevated their effort only to discover the content had no relevancy, they perceived a sense of pressure, felt negatively toward the brand, and often took action, such as unsubscribing to a content stream or marking emails as spam.

What does this say about message frequency, which can lead to marketing fatigue? It is not about the number of messages you send at all.

What Can Marketers Do?

So, how do we communicate value without offending our target audience by sending too many messages? How do we make sure consumers have been exposed to our brandand its offers enough times to maximize the potential for a sale?

We do this through tools that recognize digital activity, creating a 360-degree view of our consumers. Once we get to know them, we ask permission to connect. We earn trust with double opt-in practices, for example. Finally, we earn the right to send messages.

Before Micheaux, the solution might have seemed to be to communicate less but in a highly engaging and personalized way. But why lose the opportunity to connect at a deeper level with our audience? We do not have to! Micheaux has shown us that we can actually increase the number of messages by proving relevancy.We must simply understand and anticipate the relevancy of our content to its audience. Remember, marketing fatigue is not about consumers feeling bombarded with messages; it’s the level of effort they expend to find out content is not relevant to their needs or buying cycle.

In my next post, I’ll recommend a few ways to reduce marketing fatigue. In the meantime, share your tactics for combating this challenge!