Customer behaviour and national regulations are changing rapidly. Your marketing automations must keep pace.

Marketing automation is technology that manages marketing processes and campaigns automatically. The advantage of automation as part of an integrated marketing campaign is that you can tailor every interaction a customer has with your brand to make it personal and relevant to their customer journey. The tedious task of monitoring hundreds or even thousands of records to determine when a person meets the correct criteria to be sent a specific message is left up to a computer, and you get to turn your attention to something that requires a human touch.

Marketing automation is used to trigger messages sent to you across many different channels. It’s not just direct mail marketing, SMS messages or email marketing campaigns: advertisements you see slotted into blogs, news media, YouTube clips and your social media timeline are all automatically selected and placed for you, usually based on your web behaviour.

Automation is a powerful and flexible tool for marketers. Its possibilities are limited only by your creativity. Most companies currently use some form of marketing automation in their digital marketing campaigns. Emailmonday reports 51% on average currently use some kind of automation, and that 58% of B2B companies are planning to adopt it.

However, marketing automations are not a “set and forget” system. Marketing automation can eliminate repetitive and rote activities, but it still needs assessing and monitoring.

What’s relevant to your customers changes quickly—and we’ve seen some big changes recently, owing to measures put in place to reduce the threat of COVID-19. If you let automations obediently follow the same old workflows without checking in on them, you will sooner or later run into trouble.

The announcement of lockdowns across the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic saw a number of big companies changing up their marketing in response—some pre-emptively, and some a little too late.

As late as April 2020, after the announcements of cancelled flights and closed borders, a popular Indonesian airline continued sending their customers automated offers to upgrade their flights to business class—days after the announcement that Indonesia was itself closing its borders, and in spite of those same flights’ cancellations.

If the information you provide to your customers is self-contradictory or obviously incorrect, it erodes their trust in your brand.

There’s no better time to check that your own automated messages are free from similar slip ups.

If you’ve recently moved to a model in which your products or services are available only online or by contact-free delivery, it’s now extremely important to make sure you’re not encouraging your customers to leave the safety of their homes and come to you! Relevance, as we know, is integral to the best marketing campaigns. Customers are more socially aware than ever before, and today, when COVID-19 is a relevant threat to everyone, it’s vital to your reputation to avoid encouraging behaviour, however accidentally, that is seen as detrimental to society—so now is the time to go and check, then get rid of those ‘see in store for details’ messages and replace them with something new.

Conflicting messages aside, it’s also a good time to check that your current marketing is still appropriate more generally. Although automations might still be firing them off or slotting them into websites to entice viewers based on keywords, not all messages can be considered tasteful at a time when pandemic fears are at the forefront of every consumer’s mind.

For example, in August 2019, Asos was advertising fashionable (but not functional) chain-mail face masks—a product they’ve since pulled, sensitive to the current problems surrounding the availability of personal protective equipment.

KFC, too, withdrew an advertising campaign in the UK. With health authorities cautioning the population against putting our fingers on our faces or in our mouths, the fast food company decided that now wasn’t the right time to reprise their iconic ‘Finger Licking Good’ slogan with an ad campaign that featured lingering visuals of people licking their fingers and hands.

On the opposite end of this scale, the NY Times reported back in March that a cruise company saw their advertisements air during a CNN segment discussing the Grand Princess cruise ship and the thousands of people isolated aboard due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Consumers did not hesitate to comment.

In the last few months, we’ve also seen some unfortunate automatically-placed advertisements in news articles and on social media—and people aren’t shy about pointing out their inappropriateness. One example from twitter saw a user receive a digital advertisement for James Bond: No Time To Die juxtaposed against an update on the mounting global death toll of the novel coronavirus.

What can we take away from all these examples?

Automation is a powerful and convenient tool, but it should not operate without the oversight and discretion of you or other human staff.

Have you checked what your automated services—google ads, triggered email campaigns, SMS marketing, and any others you might be using—might be telling your customers lately? There’s no time like the present.

About the Author

Martin Soley is Group General Manager Data Services and has over a decades experience across data quality, analytics and related technology in ANZ and abroad. Martin’s strategic insight and expertise drives commercial outcomes for DCA’s varied clients.

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