Fighting Marketing Fatigue: Proof You Can Increase Message Frequency And Still Win

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  Andrea Micheaux, associate professor at the University Management School (IAE) in Lille, France. (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 does not claim 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 approach. This 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.

1 comment about "Fighting Marketing Fatigue: Proof You Can Increase Message Frequency And Still Win".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 22, 2014 at 11:49 a.m.

    The first two are *exactly* why real-time email data and content are so important.

    #1 "Individualize the approach" means that you need accurate data about each recipient's recent behavior and engagement level.

    #2 And "Focus on message relevance" requires fresh open-time content, so your message is relevant *now.* You mustn't leave the recipient reading a product offer that's gone stale since the email was sent, so if they like it and click through, they slapped with an infuriating "out of stock" message or a price change.

Next story loading loading..