Sense of Urgency or Sense of Concern

BETH NEGUS VIVEIROS: No matter what your marketing medium of choice is today — direct mail, email, social, TV, whatever — one thing is certain. Consumers are overloaded, and they’ll give your message only a moment’s thought before they decide whether to consider your offer or move on.

That’s why several emails from J. Jill annoyed me. I shop from the chain, which is why the merchant emails me just about every day and send me a print catalog almost every week.

Now, do I open all their emails? Nah, only when I’m in the market for something — which is why the recent “25% off your entire purchase in stores only” subject line caught my eye. Hmmmm, I could use some new shorts for an upcoming vacation. I wasn’t sure if I could get to the store that day, so I wondered when the sale ended.

After reading the email — and two others in the same series — I’m still wondering. The sale goes on for “a limited time.” One more day? Two? Six years?

Folks, I get creating a sense of urgency, but this is just, well, rude. Today’s consumer is busy, and you’re telling her there’s a sale at the mall that ends, well, sometime, who knows? Do you think she’ll take the time to go to the mall tomorrow on the off-chance the sale is still running?

Or will she not bother, and go to another retailer who makes the terms and timing of its sale crystal clear? And if she does go to J. Jill and the sale has ended without notice, how loyal do you think she’ll be in the future? Not so much.

I liked the straightforwardness of a recent direct mail piece from Omaha Steaks much better. “1/2 Price SALE….Yes, Shipping is 1/2 Price too!” blared the outer envelope copy.

And inside — that’s exactly what the offer was. A range of steaks and side dishes, offered for half price, with half-price shipping — and a clear call to action that the offer ends May 10, 2011.

Omaha Steaks got it right. The sense of urgency is there, and the consumer is given a precise timeline on how long the offer is valid. And that’s some tasty creative.

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