Don’t make me hate you

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Marketers often think they’re being smart. Most of the time, we’re being very stupid.

When you visit your big box electronics retailer, it’s hard to make headway on which TV to buy. Over the years, television manufacturers have — somewhat — overcome this hurdle by covering corners of the TV with a removable sticker. These stickers highlight everything from resolution, to types of cable inputs to other kinds of smart features that the screens have built into them (like Netflix, etc…). This way, it’s much easier for the consumer to recognize the subtle nuances between prices and sizes, and what they’re getting when faced with a wall of screens that all look similar in size and function.

This is smart marketing. It’s actually become increasingly better over the years, as most of these stickers have become somewhat standardized to make the shopping process have a little less friction. These floor demos and their stickers are a great example of how television manufacturers have overcome the challenge of mis-informed sales associates coupled with the ability for a consumer to make distinctions between the choices at a glance.

But then, again, marketers can also do some very dumb stuff.

I found myself with an extended flight delay (it happens) and I was waiting in an airport lounge (airline, lounge, and location won’t be mentioned). With everything happening in the news and a crazier-than-usual travel schedule, I opted to sit in front of the TV airing CNN while checking my email, eating some snacks that I have no business eating, and catching up on how much chaos there is going on in our world today.

It seemed to be a fairly new and large-ish flat screen TV that had the feature-riddled sticker still on it. It made me laugh. I wondered why the people who had installed the screen couldn’t even be bothered to remove the sticker that is solely used for the purpose of comparing it to others while on a showroom floor.

As I approached the screen to remove it (someone has to do it!), it disappeared. I thought I was on Candid Camera. Is this a joke? I went over to the bar, grabbed some more pretzels and water and sat back down in my seat. The sticker reappeared. I had been on the road. I was very tired. I rubbed my eyes. The sticker was still there.

Can you guess what happened next?

It turns out that this TV manufacturer had created a digital version of this “sticker” that appears quite often (every couple of seconds or so) on this, specific, TV. It’s obviously there as some kind of promotion/sponsorship with the airline to have frequent travelers marvel at all of the features that this screen possesses. But it doesn’t. It’s annoying.

And, as I got more and more annoyed by this digital sticker — either blocking the full screen experience or continually popping in and out of the regularly scheduled programming — I started to hate this brand. With a passion. Now, let’s be honest: I’m a marketing nerd, so these types of silly antics are probably more noticeable to me than the average consumer, but it’s still an interruption, it adds friction to the TV viewing experience, and… it’s simply not good.

The thing about hate.

Hate is a strong word. Most consumers probably wouldn’t say that they hate it. It’s more subliminal. It’s annoying. It festers. It lies there… somewhere… in their back of their brains. We all know that life is full of experiences. Some great. Some bad. Some that last forever. Some that are fleeting. The brand’s imperative is to ensure that — with every interaction — they are getting consumers to invest in them (and not divest of them).

I’m much more aware of marketing than the average bear. I see moments like this as a great opportunity to engage. No one wants to be in an airport lounge. They’re simply there trying to get a break from one hectic moment to another. If you were a brand thinking about marketing within that environment, you may want to think more about the state of the consumer’s mindset (and less about what you’re trying to scream at them).

Brands need to look for ways to add peace, serenity, and comfort, instead of intrusion, annoyance, and confusion. It’s not just airport lounges, either. It’s everywhere. From Instagram and Facebook to television ads and beyond.

Don’t make me hate you.


About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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  1. John Guild

    If this TV manufacturer had given you a peaceful, serene, comfortable viewing experience, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the TV brand at all, would you? Which is as it should be with every customer experience unless it’s something “above and beyond.” A good experience is expected and seldom noted, but a bad experience is a shock. It’s distasteful and, as you say, hated. And this is exactly the passion that creates the energy to leave a negative review online.

    Now imagine this scenario. On the TV’s digital ‘sticker’ there is a QR code labeled ‘Feedback’ that you scan. In your annoyance you give them a piece of your mind on the form that pops up on your smartphone. The marketing goofus in charge gets an email that says “You have feedback: Thumbs down!” At least it didn’t go online. Plus this person has a chance to fix it with you later.

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