Relevance Is Overrated

Andrew Kordek

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Marketers, especially email marketers, are obsessed with the topic of relevance. Of course, there are good reasons for this obsession. Messages targeted to subscribers based on their interests yield higher response rates. Too many irrelevant messages increase the likelihood people will unsubscribe from future email messages.

In recent years, I have become obsessed with the question, “What companies do customers think do the best job marketing to them?” After considering the thousands of responses received through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, something occurred to me: relevance is overrated.

While marketers talk about relevance as a mark of success, consumers use the word “relevant” in negative contexts. Consumers talk about their irritation with irrelevant messages (whether in email, banner ads, Facebook, etc.). They talk about how many of the messages they receive are “not relevant” to them.

The vocabulary used by consumers talking about the companies that do the best job marketing to them is totally different. Instead of relevant, they use words like “interesting,” “helpful,” “informative,” and “awesome!” Most importantly, they talk about how these companies “care” about them.

Relevance should not be our goal. In the minds of consumers, “relevant” is the low water mark — it’s the criterion for not sucking. The goal should be demonstrating that your company cares about its customers.

When asked, “What companies do the best job marketing to you?” consumers tend to mention the same companies over and over again. However, the reasons they like these companies are varied:

  • Apple develops new and innovative products.
  • Costco will refund anything.
  • Oreo is fun.

Originally from “Relevance is Overrated” | Published March 27, 2011

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Kordek

Andrew Kordek is a Co-Founder of Trendline Interactive.

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