Studies suggest that customers typically respond better to a personal and informal tone of voice, which is why many brands strive to sound ‘human’ in their communications.

However, merely sounding human is not always effective, particularly if a brand is delivering irrelevant and insensitive marketing at the same time. This is where ‘thoughtful marketing’ comes in – a concept championed by the ecommerce flower company, Bloom & Wild, in relation to its initiative for tailored marketing communications, offering customers the option to opt out of potentially sensitive occasions such as Mother’s Day.

Marketing that puts the customer first

The concept of ‘putting customers first’ usually relates to customer service, as brands strive to ensure that the customer experience is satisfactory or better, overtly positive,  from start to finish. With that said, many forget that marketing is a core part of this experience, and something that can heavily impact whether or not someone becomes a customer in the first place – especially if the marketing is centred around a difficult or sensitive topic.

Of course, the subject of sensitivity in marketing has become all the more relevant this year due to the coronavirus crisis; we’ve seen a vast array of brands adapt and evolve their communications to resonate with overall public sentiment. This is not always easy to gauge. While many brands pivoted to the ‘we’re here for you’ message early on, this has more recently been met with complaints from customers who are sick of seeing this message in their inbox, particularly if it feels like a perfunctory statement rather than an authentic gesture. Brands have been criticised for ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and using the pandemic as a way to get into consumers’ inboxes.

It’s not only large and obvious issues like coronavirus that are worth considering, however; days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day can also be difficult for a lot of people. This is why Bloom & Wild created the ‘Thoughtful Marketing Movement’, which is a commitment to delivering tailored and sensitive marketing. 

In 2019, the company sent an email to its customers asking them if they wanted to opt-out of Mother’s Day marketing content, including on-site content. The brand received a huge amount of positive feedback in return, spurring on an initiative to encourage like-minded companies to offer the same preferences. Since then, over 100 brands and a number of agencies have signed up to the movement, all pledging to offer opt-out content to customers as well as more tailored marketing overall. These brands include big names such as Wagamama, Papier, and Treatwell, who in the past have typically sent marketing communications based on seasonal events.

Using technology to go the extra mile

Bloom & Wild is able to execute its thoughtful marketing through technology, which in this case is the customer engagement platform, Braze. Speaking to Essential Retail, Bloom & Wild’s Head of Brand, Marisa Thomas, explained: “Those who opted out from receiving Mother’s Day messaging were all added to the same segment so they didn’t receive messages about the occasion, but instead other messages.”

In 2019, almost 18,000 customers opted-out of the Bloom & Wild’s Mother’s Day campaign. This year, the brand has gone even further, allowing customers to opt-out of Father’s Day content, too. It’s not just email marketing that’s affected either; opted-out customers will now see no mention of these days across the Bloom & Wild website, or any ads on Facebook, Instagram or Gmail (if these accounts use the same email address that customers opted-out with).

To give customers even greater control, Bloom & Wild has also launched a preference centre to enable customers to opt-out of other sensitive occasions without waiting for the brand to reach out and ask.

bloom and wild preferences
Occasion preferences allowing customers to opt out of sensitive occasions. Image via Bloomandwild.com

Brand reputation and customer loyalty

Along with a large number of customers who opted-out in 2019, Bloom & Wild also received praise across social media on the back of the initiative, with customers highlighting their appreciation of the brand’s thoughtfulness. At the same time, the brand was also mentioned in the House of Commons by MP Matt Warman, who called for the marketing watchdog to implement a voluntary code for sensitive promotions. He stated: “If other companies were to follow suit, the dread – and I do mean dread – around this day might be mitigated for many people.”

As it stands, GDPR rules stipulates that consumers are required to opt-in to the marketing emails they want, but there is no option to opt-out of emails relating to specific subject matter.

Warman’s comments highlight the significant role that brands can play in consumers’ lives, even unintentionally. This means that brands who are mindful of this could see benefits in the long-term.

Bloom & Wild is proof of this to a certain extent, as along with a large number of customers signing up to tailored marketing, Bloom & Wild generated a wave of positive feedback on social media. The brand’s reputation saw a positive boost as a result, feeding back into its image as a customer-centric brand. This could also have positively impacted loyalty, with customers perhaps more likely to return again in future. In contrast, brands that continuously promote themselves in relation to certain occasions could potentially alienate (and therefore lose) customers as a result.

Of course, the reason why Bloom & Wild’s promise resonated in the first place is that it is a reflection of the company’s core values, and care for the overall well-being of its customers. Again, this is something that is important to keep in mind, as brands that typically use heavy urgency or sales-driven tactics could come across as disingenuous if they suddenly start to display empathy.

During the past few months, brands appear to have eased back on urgency in marketing communications, with many taking a more passive and positive approach instead. AI marketing company Phrasee even banned its AI from generating specific phrases in email subject lines, in order to prevent provoking worry or fear in consumers.

In future, it’s likely that this type of mindful marketing will continue, and perhaps become another key way for customer-centric brands to truly differentiate themselves.