Training Your Users To Ignore You – The Blind Eye Syndrome

In my last article on half baked features I mentioned about the ‘live chat support’ on websites that are mostly ‘offline’. As a result, users have started ignoring the chat link on portals and that feature has gained a blind eye from the users. Even if it’s there they don’t really care now.

The basic reason for this development in user behavior was because what he could see did not work for him. Hence he has stopped seeing it altogether.

Keeping that white space untouched on your site is worth more than adding another marketing pitch there. He’d be better off not seeing anything that doesn’t work for him.

Here are some common examples of the users having developed a blind eye for marketing pitches because of irrelevancy, inaccuracy or it just did not work for some reason.

1. The daily deals business: The whole Groupon industry was although started as social media marketing but soon boiled down to email and SMS marketing. There was no targeting and we received SMS/emails everyday. After 30 consecutive days of receiving non-buy-able deals (for any reason) you realise that there is nothing relevant for you in there and slowly the mails/SMS are as good as spam for you. The situation is so bad that the whole industry is dying. The economics of high cost user acquisition isn’t working. Though most players haven’t shut shop but have changed the business model.

2. The free tickets: OTAs have long been offering “free tickets” as promotional offers. But the offer comes with a heavy string attached, viz. 15 days advance booking, only base fare off, only on selective airlines and routes. The whole maths comes out to be a discount of whopping Re.0 as the base fare is mostly NIL for 2 weeks advance bookings.

This promo has been so badly exploited by OTAs that it has become irrelevant for users. Recently, I saw a similar offer from an OTA best known for its UI. Although the discount was coming out to be Rs.1400 for a flight I wanted but they had gone down to a level of inflating fuel surcharge and other fees. Again, they managed to get my attention but nothing beyond that. They underestimated their user’s intellect.

3. The free Reebok watches/sunglasses: This one is an epic. From buying an airline ticket to getting a new prepaid mobile connection, branded watches are a sureshot free gift being given out everywhere. It is mostly Reebok watches worth Rs.2500 or in some cases it is sunglasses/watches of Reebok/Polo/Giordano/UCB with similar tag price. You wear one watch for a month and you will lose respect for Reebok as brand and also turn a blind eye to all such deals.

The typical cost of those watches are Rs.90 (for retail orders) and the sunglasses are for as low as Rs.18. What kind of marketing study tells you that somebody who can afford air travel would wear such a thing?

The situation is so bad now that it’s embarrassing to wear anything Reebok. Dilution of Reebok’s brand value is a separate case study but taking your consumers for a ride with a offer like this kills your brand’s potential to grab attention in future. Hence a blind eye for any watches as free gift.

An online apparel store was recently giving out a FastTrack watch free with purchase of Rs.1500+. The Reebok watches from my earlier experience made me think twice even about the FastTrack deal. Not only the company but the industry at large suffered.

4. The breaking news – No matter when you switch on the TV, there is always some “breaking news”. In the pre IndiaTV / AajTak era, there used to be one breaking news in a week or so and that grabbed everyone’s eyeballs. Today, even a cat stuck on a tree is a national TV breaking news. The blind eye was sure to happen. Now all we are found doing is flipping channels, form one breaking news to another, playing “I ignore you”.

5. And most importantly – The unsolicited SMS spam – This was so painful that a regulatory intervention was required. In this case though, marketeers could have killed the relevance of a communication technology all together.

Lately, we have seen quite regular mailers from the most respected Indian eCommerce company for their new product categories. The first two category announcements were not useful for me, as a result I deleted the last one without reading. Not sure if I might as well go on to unsubscribe their mailers all together.

Still today most web companies decide their direct marketing based on materialistic resources. What some of the online marketers don’t realise is that the real price paid is in terms of user’s attention. And unfortunately, user attention is not as cheap as your mass mailing software subscription or your bulk SMS package.

Although, ‘I am the end user‘ is a bad premise for any product decision but for this one case putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes would make your decisions easier and fruitful in the long term.

I have one parting question, did Dr.Batra himself receive the “Dr.Batra’s Clinic’s hair solutions” SMSes daily? Did he not feel like pulling off his hair?

Dear Marketeers, do you subscribe to your own marketing messages? Do you think it’s time to promise value and deliver it as well?

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]

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