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Blog Post

Is Promotional Marketing Dead?

Published: Wednesday, Jun 7, 2017

Messaging has become the most dominant and ubiquitous channel of engagement. That is probably why 4 in 5 companies want to text their customers. However, only 1 in 4 marketers use this medium to reach their customer base. Many companies are just not keeping up with changing consumer behavior, and in turn creating a digital divide. If consumer behavior has changed so dramatically, why are marketers still choosing email over instant messaging for customer outreach?

Human attention is dwindling – fast. According to a study by Microsoft, over the past 17 years the human attention span has fallen to below just 8 seconds. While our attention span is dwindling, our power to consume information is at a faster rate than ever. Addictive technology behaviors have changed the name of the game. The first thing those between 18-24 do when they lose focus is check their phone. For over half of them this means they will reach for their phone every 30 minutes. And while they are on those phones, over half of those sessions last only 30 seconds.

Do these new parameters of engagement mean promotional marketing as we know it is dead in the water?

Nowadays, we seem to think in chunks of 140 characters at a time and as such, we consume content dramatically different than in years past. Nearly three-fourths of the millennial generation, which is currently the largest living generation group, watch their favorite entertainment using streaming technology instead of live TV, less than one in five use email regularly, and over three in four solely use messaging for their communication needs. If consumer behavior is changing, companies need to follow suit with their marketing tactics.

For one, evidence already shows older techniques no longer drive value. Driving promotional marketing the same way that has been done through traditional marketing leads to drastically lower conversion rates. When was the last time you opened those flyers that the mailman delivered to you? You can take a look at email marketing vs. messaging, as another example. It is no surprise that a text message has an open rate of 99 percent, whereas less than a third of promotional emails are opened. In our daily life we open respond to most of our text messages, but many emails end up in the spam/promotional folder untouched. Even more disparate are the click-through rates (CTR). Pew Research Center reveals that if you include a link in your text message, customers will click through that link at a rate of about 36 percent. That same link in an email? The customers click through just 6 percent of the time.

Yet companies continue to push content through legacy channels like email, even for transactions with existing customers.

Technology is moving so fast, that even ever-present social media may become less effective in engaging with young consumers. Business Insider research shows that millennials are beginning to move from the public spheres of social media to private media in order to communicate with friends and family. Messaging apps, on the other hand, have exploded, with Whatsapp having over 1 billion users to date. Facebook’s major investments have been in their Facebook Messenger, including bot applications. And just like that, messaging app usage has officially surpassed that of social networks.

There is a seismic shift in consumer behavior from public sphere interaction, to private, instant messaging and many companies are behind the curve in reaching their customers in the same way.

The exponential growth in messaging apps and instant-messaging engagement shows consumers want fast and private engagement. The first step for companies to reach customers in this day and age is to realize that promotional marketing as we know has changed. Companies must meet consumers where they are and using modes that they prefer. And for the foreseeable future that will be instant-messaging.


  1. Sable, David. “Attention Spans Dwindling, Processing Power Increasing. Are We Becoming More Like Our Primal Ancestors?” The Huffington Post., 30 Jan. 2017. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
  2. Hendricks, Drew. “10 Marketing Tactics To Increase Conversions.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 18 June 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
  3. Intelligence, BI. “Messaging Apps Are Now Bigger than Social Networks.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 20 Sept. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
  4. “Text Marketing Vs. Email Marketing: Which One Packs a Bigger Punch? [Infographic].”Business 2 Community. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.
  5. “5 Facts That Prove the Power of SMS for Business.” TTAG Systems, n.d. Web.

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