MediaPost EmailInsider: Marketing Fatigue – Proof You Can Increase Message Frequency and Still Win


For most retailers, increased email volume is a given when planning holiday marketing strategy; however, many still fear the effects of so-called marketing fatigue. Today, we share the results of an important scientific study courtesy of MediaPost:

Digital marketers are under pressure to increase the number of messages in order to drive revenue. But can we deliver all these messages and do it in a way that increases conversions and reduces marketing fatigue?

The Evidence Speaks

The marketing fatigue phenomenon was the subject of a first-of-its-kind empirical research study conducted by Sorbonne University Professor Andrea Micheauxs (Results were published in the December 2011  Journal of Advertising: “Managing E-mail Advertising Frequency From the Consumer Perspective.”). Over a three-month period, Micheaux was to create, test and analyze email campaigns for nearly 15,000 consumers. The results showed that by anticipating message relevance, we can improve our response rate while increasing the number of email messages to each recipient, thus lowering the occurrence of marketing fatigue.

Disclaimer:  Micheaux, an experienced researcher, does not claim that her results indicate that a specific email strategy will work at all times, under any circumstance. Though I will not go into detail about the statistical methodology she used, the conclusions she reached may change the way we create and plan our marketing campaigns.

Micheaux identified a common practice consumers follow when they are faced with myriad email messages on a daily basis. Analysis of emails revealed that when email recipients judged content as “highly relevant,” they were less likely to complain about message frequency, leading them to unsubscribe or move messages to spam. Conversely, they are more likely to have a positive attitude about the brand.

When consumers found a message subject line relevant upon initial judgment, they would make an effort to open the message. If the content was judged as relevant, they would take additional action, such as visiting a Web site. However, once consumers elevated their effort only to discover the content had no relevance, they perceived a sense of pressure, felt negatively toward the brand, and often took adverse action.

Conclusion? Marketing fatigue is linked to the level of effort required to read messages rather than the actual number of messages received. So it’s not about the number of messages you send at all.

Five Rules For Reducing Marketing Fatigue While Maximizing Revenue

Individualize the approachThis step is critical to managing relevance and fatigue on a consumer-to-consumer basis. Deploy a one-to-one contact management strategy where communications are optimized using purchase data, online behavior, demographics, preferences, etc. Message relevance should define communication thresholds — on an individual basis — to maximize sales. 

Focus on message relevance. Once opened, the messages we send must be relevant, or we risk adverse consumer actions.

Increase message volume. Once the content relevance threshold has been met, marketers can increase the volume and frequency of communications, but only if subsequent impressions are designed to continue delivering highly personalized and relevant messages.

Provide guidance. Help each consumer decide whether or not to open the message through a clear, focused subject line. Remember, there’s no penalty for helping consumers classify messages as irrelevant before they open them.

When in doubt, simplify.If we cannot determine if a message is relevant enough, it’s best to use a simple, graphical or fun approach. Keep effort level low for consumers. The less the viewer has to comb through, the less likely you will create a negative outcome. 

What Micheaux found can fundamentally change our perspective on marketing fatigue and improve customer experience — and revenue.

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