Why I think push notifications are dangerous (if used incorrectly)

Let me start by saying I am biased when it comes to push notifications. As a consumer, I absolutely H-A-T-E them. I have such an aversion that I start developing negative feelings towards the brands that clog up my notifications board – how irrational is that?!

Image result for push notification

But how about my customers? If as a marketer, even I have this irrational hate of little messages interrupting my day-to-day, how will Jane Doe react to my in-app promotional messages? I am not saying everyone is like me – that is the most unforgivable mistake 21st century marketers can make in the age of focus groups and data collection – but a lot of my friends share my aversion. And it makes sense, right? when Seth Godin wrote ‘Permission Marketing’, the Marketing world cheered and agreed – we should only communicate with the customers who tell us they would be happy to hear from us – but the daily “HEY BABE!” notification I receive from Missguided is probably not what Mr Godin had in mind! Yes, I downloaded the app, but does that mean I am keen to receive a text telling me how my “fab legs need hot new trousers *emoji, emoji, emoji*” every.single.day? (here are those negative feelings towards the brand I mentioned earlier…)

The response to this tends to be that customers can’t complain because it is entirely within the law, and to be fair I probably ticked a box somewhere allowing them to do it – but that’s Legal’s concern. Marketing’s concern is “are my customers seeing any value in the messages I send them?”.

Like everything in Marketing, it’s all about the channel. A brand’s frequency of communication, messaging content and tone of voice must change according to the channel or it will be incredibly inconsistent. Even in channels where advertising has always been present, the trend is shifting – think AdBlocker against banner ads and Netflix against TV commercials. Of course advertising still has a place, especially where there is transparency, but I don’t think our personal mobile phones are fair game.

Yes, there are a lot of competitors and breaking through the clutter is hard but I can’t imagine that this is done through quantity – remember we’re not talking about mass communication here, these are personal messages I receive on my phone every week or everyday. Does it work in the long-term or does it jeopardise the brand? Even if the short-term revenue is positive, I think the value of the communications we send to our customers has a lot more impact, and a more lasting one at that.

So – does this mean push notifications are completely out of the picture?

Not necessarily…

They just have to be relevant. Think about this for a second – relevant. Not to the brand, to the customer. What are some examples of these?

  • Breaking News (as in game-changing news regarding the areas I expressed interest in, not forcing at least one article per day to become “breaking news”)
  • Flight updates – inform me of flight changes or send me my boarding pass again, just in case.
  • Weather reports – If it’s going to be sunny tomorrow or there is a cold front approaching
  • Specific items I expressed interest in – I am always grateful to Amazon if they warn me an item in my shopping cart has had a reduction in price.

In contrast, what do I not care about?

  • Latest promotions and offers – my phone is not for advertising. Send me an email, post it on social media, whatever. Don’t send me a push notification, your campaigns do not require my immediate attention.
  • Reminder messages – the “Hey babez, winter is here! Wanna see the new trends?” notification would have more power if it weren’t EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It is the consumer’s choice to ignore a banner on the street or skip through the ad in the beginning of a Youtube video, but when we chase them all the way to their private lives, the line between communication and annoyance is really not that fine – just make it valuable and relevant.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to re-read Seth’s masterpiece and delete the Missguided app off my phone.

By the way I’m not paid to divulge Seth Godin’s work, I’m just a fangirl. So if you know him please introduce us.


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