Creepy Marketing

I’ve been trying to figure out how to work this story into an email for over a month now and I was telling a few people last night about it.  Then today, my wife sent me a text message and the whole thing came together!

I was riding the bus several weeks back on the way home from work when I did what I normally do and eavesdropped on the people in front of me.  It was two young girls who were probably in the late teens and they were jabbering on inanely to each other about nonsense as young girls are wont to do.  The whole time they were talking to each other they were both flipping around their phones.

Suddenly the girl on the left stops, leans over, shows an Instagram photo of some young guy to her friend and says, “He looks rapey.”  The other girl shakes her head and says, “I bet he’d give his left nut just to look creepy.”  The first girl sits back upright, returns to her Instagram surfing while saying, “Totally.  Creepy would be an upgrade.”

I nearly made my lip bleed from biting down on it trying not to laugh out loud.  It was the highlight of my day that day.  Poor guy.

Then today, I got a text message from my wife with a picture from Facebook suggesting that she become friends with our next door neighbour.

For a bit of context, my wife hardly EVER uses Facebook and when she does, she never posts – in the nine years she’s had her account you could literally count her posts on Facebook on your fingers and toes and still have a foot’s worth of toes left over.  She once famously said that she uses Facebook almost exclusively to find out what’s going on in my life.

She thought it was creepy that Facebook would make this recommendation.  We don’t really know our neighbours, they’re shy and quiet and we keep to ourselves pretty much.  Interestingly, our neighbour sent her an email about some gardening work two days earlier – then suddenly it’s suggested she become friends with him on Facebook.

That’s just weird.

Obviously, Facebook has somehow gotten access to her contacts which got synced with Gmail and suddenly Facebook is making these almost spooky recommendations.

I had a similar experience last year when people I knew through work but had no mutual contacts with started turning up as “People You May Know” on my Facebook account.

It’s unnerving for those of us who are technically savvy, if you had no idea about how these things work, it might freak you out.  You’d end up wearing a tinfoil hat.

This is one of the reasons I take it quite easy with some of my retargeting stuff because if someone visits your website and then you start “following them around the interwebz” that’s a bit off-putting.  It works like crazy to increase your conversions, but for some people, it’s kind of creepy.

There are lots of things that people do that could be considered creepy with their marketing.  I know one individual who has a habit of shooting videos of himself giving marketing advice or sharing something on his YouTube channel with his shirt off.  It’s weird and creepy.  Nobody wants to watch you talk about Facebook advertising in all your “dad bod” glory, put a shirt on, bro!

Similarly, people that “overshare” in their marketing can be quite creepy.  I know lots of people like to be very “raw” with their marketing and storytelling, but seriously, I once sat in on a webinar where a guy told the viewers how he found his girlfriend in bed with her male cousin and that it inspired him to change his life.  If your journey to where you are today detours off down the off-ramp to Incest Road, then I think perhaps that’s a bit too creepy to share with your audience.

It’s can sometimes be a fine line (like with some retargeting campaigns) and other times when you start sharing things that are socially taboo, you’ve gone well past the line and become Mayor of Creepytown.  Don’t be the Mayor of Creepytown.

The bottom line is, creepy marketing doesn’t work, it just makes people feel weird about you.  You’re trying to engender trust and respect, not make your audience dry heave when they think of you.  An audience that dry heaves at the very notion of you are bad for business.

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