Are You a Beggar or a Marketer?

Let me show you the single most annoying email I’ve received (and I receive it far too often).

Let me show you the single most annoying email I’ve received (and I receive it far too often).

Democratic Membership Status Email
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee … Desperate much?

Forget for a second that Democrat fundraisers sent me maybe a dozen messages yesterday alone, and that’s not a rare occurrence. Also forget that I’ve received dozens of this kind of email over the years. (So they sure ain’t “final.”)

Set aside that this message, on the surface, hits many of The Seven Emotional Copy Drivers (fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation and flattery).

Where does any emailer get off asking for money with the vocabulary of a debt collector? “Final notice”? That reeks of desperation covered by a thin veneer of bullshit.

Emotional hot-button copy is essential for driving action. But marketing is often compared to dating, and nowhere is that truer than in the fact that desperate is not attractive. When you’re acting that desperate, solicitation turns into begging. And no one wants to do business with a beggar.

In fact, the overall impression I’ve taken from years of these kinds of fundraising efforts is that the DCCC must be losing because they tell me they’re desperate every day.

It’s not just political fundraisers who come off as beggars, either. Retailers like Jos A. Bank send me “final day” offers every day for items that have never been sold for their “regular prices.” Sometimes you see an item’s “final day” stretch on for weeks!

Jos A. Banks Sales Subject Lines
It’s not a special even if it happens every day.

I bet Jos A. Bank has binders full of evidence that those emails work. But sometimes good evidence can be misleading. You may be driving the most sales per blast, but at what cost to your reputation and long-term value proposition? Saturday Night Live has noticed.

Strong brands are not desperate. It’s fine to leverage fear, desperation, greed, salvation and more emotions in your marketing. But I really believe that begging, cajoling and threatening are mistakes.

Always step back and look at the the messages you’re sending collectively. They’re painting one of the move convincing pictures of your company, and it’s not always a flattering one.

Are you a beggar, or are you a marketer?