Stop! In the name of brand love.

There is a hint of panic and desperation in the online advertising air at the moment. Loads of brands seem to be focusing on their numbers in an attempt to hit their targets, their ROIs and secure their budgets for the next fiscal year. Be it Likes, sign ups, leads or conversions – if they don’t deliver on those numbers, they’re facing the financial axe. With this ultimatum on the brain, marketing teams are in buy mode, scrambling to run rash campaigns with an unbridled focus on acquisition. Big wins and free deals are flooding my newsfeed, my favourite sites and my inbox. And they’re boring me to death. Death by daily deals.

I’m not tarring all acquisition campaigns with the same brush. There are obviously some that are hugely successful in delivering conversions whilst at the same time providing a great customer experience. But I wouldn’t be surprised if these campaigns have a huge media budget behind them. They have enough spend to conquer and raise their flag across thousands of sites, beating the competition to a proverbial pulp. They also could be supporting their acquisition campaign with some really engaging content that creates value for the customer beyond the competition. But, even if they win at getting people to sign up in their droves, this doesn’t mean that the brand is going to ultimately achieve long-term success in reaping their financial returns. It’s time to recognise that in the end, brands will achieve greatest success by creating compelling content and real value for genuine customers, who aren’t there for short-term gratification. And they don’t even have to offer a $10,000 prize in the process.

So why doesn’t it work?

Your customers might not be real
When brands run promotions, they’re at risk of attracting customers who are literally in it, to win it. And that is all they are there to do. They don’t love you, they have no real intention of ever purchasing your product and are likely to leave as soon as the prize has been drawn. So your competition might have achieved its own targets, but in the bigger scheme of things you’re taking two steps forward and one step back.

You’ll be diluted by the promotion professionals
With so many deal sites launching every day on the coattails of big players like Groupon and Scoopon, you’re going to have to work very hard to get your competition message to cut through an inbox, a site or on Facebook. No matter how big your prize, a new phenomenon of inbox blindness is brewing. Leave daily wins to the professionals – their customers expect this of them.

You’re at risk of cheapening your brand
If your brand is of this ilk anyway (value, money off, coupons and savings etc…) then ignore this point. But for brands who are looking to reflect premium qualities, then deal-based campaigns are a sure way to cheapen you in the eyes of consumers. Sure, you can run competitions occasionally, but make sure they’re really unique and super cool.

Build your content, they will come.

When Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest launched, did you see them running bulk-buy banner campaigns across the web? Stalking potential users with emails, telling them to sign up for a chance to win a weekend away? No. What they did was create a product and a site that was simply awesome, and led to success levels of ridiculous proportions without any marketing drive. It was their customers who did their marketing for them. For free! And with that priceless stamp of peer-to-peer approval. Brands need to make sure that what they create, on their sites and their social media pages, is something that is cool, compelling and that will engage the type of audience they want to draw in. These are genuine friends and followers and they will share your product with other like-minded people online.

I’m not saying that brands shouldn’t run acquisition campaigns at all. I recognise that brands might need a boost at the beginning to get an initial base that they can communicate with. And maybe another boost from time to time. They might also need to increase their brand awareness in a short period. I also recognise that when a brand is trying to grow online, they need the credibility of a minimum number of friends or followers. I’m not sure I would Like a page with 1 other follower, it would make me a little dubious of its authenticity.

My argument is for brands to stop focusing solely on buying customers back to back. Get off the campaign spinning wheel and take time out to invest in your digital content. It will serve you for longer. Your online content has got to be up to scratch if you want to retain the customers you have bought (if they’re interested) and get them to share your offering. Invest in your digital content and you’ll achieve long-term brand growth, customer loyalty and returns on your online marketing investments.

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