Note To e-Marketers: You Can Automate Surprise Too

Every weekday morning when I first switch on my computer, I’m reminded of every purchase I’ve ever made online.  Because every morning, among various other things, my email inbox contains something from West Elm (Christmas, 2007–a serving platter), something from Joseph A. Bank (Fall 2008, a black watch tux jacket on super closeout), and another bottle from Wine Legend with at least a 92 pt. ranking for less than $15 (Summer, 2008, a very accessible case of French Rose).  Later in the day, I’ll also hear from Overton’s (waterskis and towables), Brooks Brothers (17 1/2 x 38 dress shirts) and Amazon.

The pitches come with steady, reliable precision.  The time of day, the lead-in lines, the layout of the pitches themselves very rarely varies and certainly that’s because my name and contact information has been fed into some automated system that purports to know my buying habits and thus sends a steady stream of offers to me at an astonishingly low cost to the retailer.

Obviously, I could set the spam filters and make all of these go away.  And if I felt really motivated, I could contact the retailer and ask to be taken off their mailing list.  But much like the rain-forest clearing deluge of catalogs that clog our mailbox, its easier just to dump them into the trash or recycling bin and get on with the day.

And yet, one of the great delights of humanity and something that the best, most welcome sales pitches frequently tap into is the joy of surprise.   Our world’s can quickly become rote–a repeat cycle of wake, commute, work, commute, drink, dinner, whatever–and so anything that upends the ordinary stands out like a snowman on a black sand beach.

Could someone remind the automated marketers of that?  Could someone influence these engineers or accountants posing as creative salespeople that their pitches–while statistically profitable no doubt from a CPM perspective–could generate better returns if they added something good advertising pitches always include?

A little creativity would be nice.  Or at least a small surprise.  That’s all it would take for me to stop equating your brand with ‘crap to throw away every morning.’

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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