People Are Sick of Crappy Digital Marketing


The short term marketing game of amassing clicks, likes, and shares despite the diminishing quality of content is over. The research we’ve done over the past three years shows users don’t want crappy content and are taking actions to avoid it—and in some cases, you.

What’s worse is that those you truly want to target—the people who will become advocates and long-term, loyal customers—are the ones who are completely disenchanted and the hardest to find and engage using the marketing tactics so many organizations currently employ.

Our research shows they:

  • Avoid signing up for email newsletters (and, if they do, are not reading them).

  • Are using just one or two social media platforms. Many are only following/connecting to people they know in real life—not organizations.

  • Are actively curating what media and information they are exposed to.

  • Can spot marketing-speak a mile away and are repelled by it.

Why? Because it’s too much. And almost all of it is crap.

What does this mean for marketers? Quite simply, current marketing methods have to change. Seth Godin, in his recent book This is Marketing, says, “Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable market, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.”

Here’s a personal example. With one exception, I avoid marketing messages and content as much as possible. But I am enamored by the thought leadership of design business consultant David C. Baker. David’s posts are thoughtful and relevant to my work. I feel like he is speaking directly to me. David is selling something—his books and services—but I relish the chance to absorb the content. I’m receptive—even thankful—for the infrequent calls-to-action telling me about his next book or workshop.

Contrast that to the dozens of newsletters that you delete from your inbox every week. Or the hundreds of ads you ignore throughout your digital journeys. Or the resentment you feel when you have to enter your email address to access something that may or may not live up to your expectations. Or yet another marking site with the same garbage marketing messages you’ve heard a hundred times before.

So how do marketers make content with the same impact as David C. Baker’s? The only way to create marketing content that people are eager to consume is to truly understand and empathize with that group of people. The only way to truly understand them is through observing and talking to them. David’s articles resonate with me because he has sat with hundreds of people just like me. That kind of empathy takes time and effort. There are no shortcuts.

At Voice+Code, our methodology starts with aligning business goals with user goals. The only way you can secure that alignment is through user research. That’s where the empathy comes in and the only way your marketing can ever be effective.

We learn the types of content, messages, and methods of delivery that align with our clients’ specific audiences’ goals, behaviors, and motivations. Our empathy drives us to help them. And then we go through a process of continually measuring and optimizing the user experience so we come incrementally closer to getting it right. Because we don’t—and don’t expect to—get a home run on the first try.

Not meeting our goals means we get additional insights into how to improve and meet them the next time around. Of course, as things (technology, consumers, business models) change, we re-evaluate our goals and start again. This cyclical process isn’t an easy one, but it’s an effective one if you want to use marketing, as Seth Godin says, “to make change happen.”