I’m pretty sure most of you have received some sort of marketing that was either irrelevant, offensive or perhaps just made you say, “Why the heck am I receiving this?”

For marketing to be effective, it must reach the right audience at the right time. I’ve seen plenty of 40-somethings receiving invitations to join the AARP. A little early, right? How do you think that message went over?

Each irrelevant message affects individuals in different ways that even the best marketer cannot predict. Everyone has a different personality, sensitivities and interests. For some, a premature AARP invite (as in 15 years premature) could be completely offensive, especially if they happen to be sensitive about their advancing age! Others may ignore it and laugh about it. No matter which end of the spectrum that individual happens to fall, that marketing message it mostly a waste of time and, potentially, detrimental to the business.

Consider this story.

The other day, I received an invitation in the mail to attend a “free lunch and informational seminar” on the benefits of preplanning my own cremation. First, I don’t have any idea how I ended up in their demographic list of potential candidates who would be interested in cremation! Secondly, even if I were interested (which I’m not), I don’t think I’d want to learn about those benefits at a pizza place or Italian restaurant (the two venues this company chose). Personally, the ONLY thing they may have gotten right about me in their solicitation is the chance to win a free cruise. I’d much rather have gym memberships, discounts on paddle boarding trips or offers for exciting excursions and exotic vacations than learn about why I should plan my own death and prepay for cremation.

Marketing and branding go hand-in-hand. No matter what you put out into the universe, it affects how you are perceived by potential clients. While I am certainly not in the “plan your own cremation” demographic, even had I been, I’m fairly certain that the venue would not have felt appropriate for me. It would be like showing up at Chuck E Cheese for a seminar on how to become rich and famous. Uh, yeah… I’ll pass.

Keep in mind that perception is everything. In this case the messaging was horrible and the venue even worse. This all contributes to my perception of the business. Even if someday I do become interested in learning about cremation, I certainly wouldn’t be compelled to learn about it in a pizza parlor.

The next time you design an email, direct mail or digital advertising campaign, do a little research first and go over your message and audience to ensure the message is appropriate, relevant and delivered to those people most likely to be interested in that message – and to convert.

If you just simply ‘spray and pray,” you can be just wrong enough that your message achieves the exact opposite of your desired goal, turning those potential customers away to your competition.