Why interruption marketing is worse than a waste of time

Sharon Tanton

Interruption marketing is a lost cause. Here’s why you need to focus on great content instead.

Scenario 1
I need a new phone. I ask my friends what models they recommend. I search on the internet, compare prices, features and deals. I make a decision based on the information I find, and I buy a new phone.

Scenario 2
I want to watch something on 4OD. Ads for HTC phones keep popping up. Clicking on the X makes them open, not close. I get annoyed. I’m offered a survey in preference to an ad. That won’t go away either so I end up with 15 open ads/survey windows, and no TV show. I give up, listen to the radio instead, and vow to never ever ever buy an HTC phone.

Interruptions are annoying

Not only does interruption marketing not work for me, it is completely counterproductive. And I’m not the only one. Being forced to watch something when you’re trying to do something else doesn’t please anyone. Why would you want to make potential customers angry?

How great content helps spread the word

The company would have been far better making some brilliant phones, and then creating some fantastic content that tells the story of how their phones work and how they help their users. If they were great phones, I believe I would have heard about them on my social networks. We all love to share good stuff. Great content spreads and takes root on the web, and I’ve have found it at the right time – e.g. the time when I was looking for information about phones, and not trying to watch something else.

Why we love valuable content

The reason we put our time and creative energy into marketing with valuable content is because we know it works. It doesn’t turn potential customers off. It’s means you are there when potential clients want you – being all helpful and useful and saying exactly the right stuff. And it means you’re not wasting your time being all pushy and persistent when they don’t. Interruption marketing makes no sense. Respect the ‘do not disturb’ and just say ‘no’ to it!

If you want help creating the kind of content that won’t make potential clients scream at their laptops, then get in touch.

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    I think with many things that are presented as ‘either/or’, it’s often AND that is most powerful. Interruptions aren’t always unwelcome. Content isn’t always valuable. Balancing both is the the trick. And, when the whole world cottons on to using content in this way, we may well be forced back to interruptions to gain attention. Getting this balance right, particularly at the top of a sales process, is about mastering The Awareness Equation: http://www.bryonythomas.com/mastering-the-awareness-equation/

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    Thanks for the comment Bryony, and the article link. Love the awareness equation. As you are so right to point out – real life is never simple, and you raise a good point. Long answer for you…

    I do believe that interruptions, any interruptions, are becoming more and more unwelcome. My first job when I left university (with a sociology degree, and little direction to be honest) was a telesales role. Back in the day my calls were, amazingly, welcomed by many. I’d like to think it was my skill as a salesperson but reality is there were fewer options back then to find out about services. The internet was in its infancy and people didn’t have the luxury of doing their own research to the same extent.

    Skip forward and the buyer mentality has changed today. I genuinely think that we are more cynical, less trusting, more oversold to than ever before. I know I’ve quoted it before but I think this Tweet by Rapper Kanye West sums up the attitude of the buyers we’re selling to today:

    “Don’t ever try to sell me on anything. Give me ALL the information and I’ll make my own decision.”

    That’s the challenge we’re up against. Buyers now have choice and providing valuable information on the web as you do with your marketing, information that solves their problems and answers their questions will give them what they want without annoying them and help them move towards a sale.

    It’s a shift in focus. Even Coca Cola are moving away from advertising towards sharing meaningful content (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LerdMmWjU_E). Their focus is shifting in line with new buyer expectations.

    What comes next? I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that information that is genuinely valuable – relevant, timely, interesting, useful or entertaining – that can be found as and when your buyers need it will always win through.

    I HATE being interrupted at work or on a Sunday night by a telesales person or a charity knocking on my door. My kids HATE adverts on the TV to the extent that they record the programmes they like so they can skip the ads, however good and creative they are, because they can. I can’t see my kids or me ever feeling happy about being interrupted in the future. We need to find a different way to market our products or services. It really is time for companies to move on.

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    Does it depend on who you are targeting?

    Intelligent people do research and make their own mind up – so pull marketing works for them.

    Stupid people click buy when any old rubbish is put in front of them – so push marketing works for them.

    Obviously it’s not as simple as that and I suspect one’s response to marketing has very little to do with intelligence.

    I hate all cold call rubbish, but I’ve ended up in deep and meaningful conversations about my phone tarrif. I get angry when I realise what’s going on but some people would buy in that situation.

    If you are a shareholder, you might want to keep some push marketing in the mix. But the world is changing and everyone is thinking longer term, so pull wins for me.

    I literally thought that through as I typed it – and on reading it back it really shows – lol.

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    Hey thanks for the comment Rob. I like a totally off the cuff response!

    I’m not a total purist, honest. Push marketing is not dead and Bryony is right in her call for balance. For me, it’s the way you go about push marketing that needs to change (have a look at this article – it explains more about push marketing the valuable way – https://www.valuablecontent.co.uk/how-to-get-sales-meeting-without-annoying-people/).

    As my good friend David Tovey says in his Principled Selling book, you have to earn the right to sell these days. Sharing valuable content is a great way to nurture new relationships and open new doors. It’s much harder the old way.

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    Interesting debate and one I guess I should get involved in now my book has been mentioned!

    In my opinion the time for balance was missed when marketers started to think they knew better than consumers / customers and thought they could get buyers to do anything they wanted them to do with whizzy ‘interruptions’. Interruptions say look at me, listen to me because what I’m telling you is more important than anything else you might be doing – like running your business or taking some rare downtime. Charles H Green, in the foreword he wrote for my book, says that there has been a century long problem of marketing being mostly about propaganda and sales mostly about brow beating customers into submission – emotive words but for a quarter of a century that’s what I’ve seen all too often.

    I’ve been doing this marketing and selling stuff for nearly 30 years and I’ve never known a time when trust in anyone trying to ‘sell’ or push anything was so low.

    It’s not just marketers and salespeople’s fault, who trusts a bank anymore? who trusts big business to do the right thing? who trusts politicians?

    The pendulum has swung most definitely away from interruption marketing to (valuable) content marketing. Poor content is next to useless because it talks about the seller just as much as any push marketing does – and no one is interested in hearing a suppliers story until after they know they can trust them.

    I could go on all night (which is why I wrote a book!) but its clear to me that high quality content that is focused on the customers world helps to build trust in a way that interruption marketing could never do. The time to enthusiastically tell your own story is when you have earned the right to.

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    Hey, glad to have kicked off some great discussion. I think it depends on your definition of an interruption, the power of triangulation, and the phenomenon of selective attention.

    If you’re thinking about buying something you’ll become hyper-aware of mentions of it. You’ll pause of ads that you would otherwise have flicked passed in a magazine, you’ll click on Tweets that might have simply floated on by… and if the timing is right, you might well act on a piece of unsolicited direct mail that drops through your letter box. Direct mail that on another day might have been put in the recycling bin with a grumble. So, selective attention is a factor in people seeing something as an interruption, or serendipitous timing.

    This is often a result of triangulation. Let’s imagine that you were chatting to a trusted friend who said, “You must check out XYZ Ltd”, then a newsletter to which you subscribe has a guest post from XYZ Ltd, and then a you receive a phone call from XYZ Ltd… that third touch now gets your attention. Again, on another day and without the previous exposures the call would have seemed an imposition.

    And, there are things that are just bad practice… unsolicited marketing emails, spammy comments on a blog, automated Twitter DMs saying ‘look at me’, pop-ups on websites trying to sell you stuff before you’ve had a chance to suss them out. These, I believe, would always be seen as interruptions.

    So, in summary, I’d say that there is a place for some traditional interruption marketing when it forms part of a wider integrated mix of activity, when it leads into powerful content that supports a considered purchase, and when the engagement is respectful and enjoyable.

    Like David… I could write a book on it 😉

  7. Avatar

    Great discussion. Thanks Bryony, David and Rob.


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