Any good digital marketer is careful not to send customers too many messages. But what about messages that could irritate customers? Is it possible for just one message to resonate so poorly that it contributes to your churn rate?

In a survey to 1,000 customers about brand loyalty, we asked a question that we haven’t seen get much attention elsewhere: Have you ever specifically decided not to purchase a product or service from a brand because of a message you were sent? And if so, why?

It turns out that an ill-considered message can do more damage than you might think, and often. A surprising 18% of respondents specifically decided not to make a purchase because of a single message they were sent by a brand.

What turns customers off for good?

1. Offensive content

This is the most common reason for marketing messages to cause churn. 27% of those who decided not to buy something because of a particular message said they’d received a message that was offensive to them.


Given how much thought goes into marketing communications, that’s sort of surprising. But our guess is that when most marketers personalize their messaging content, they don’t think too much about how outré it might be. A portion of their customers might prefer something less opinionated.

Of course, marketers have a good sense of their audience overall. They also know what their brand has to stand for. But they might not realize that even aside from obvious political messages, some content might be too edgy for some customers. What’s seen as a joke, or somewhat fashion-forward, or merely attractive, to some, could very well be unacceptable to others. Given how common this is, it’s worth reexamining your imagery and other content with a more conservative eye.

2. Grey Area Opt-ins

The second most common reason for messaging-related churn occurs when consumers receive communications they never signed up for. Some 26% complained of this. That’s a strong argument for making sure everyone on your list is opted-in. And it’s another reason that a well-thought-out, educational onboarding series is always a good idea.

domino onboarding series

We get that most marketers aren’t deliverability experts, but good list hygiene and suppression based on engagement are top best practices for preventing this type of customer reaction.

3. Too Close for Comfort?

Nearly a quarter of customers were inspired to churn because they felt that their privacy had been violated because of awkward or inappropriate personalization. The “creep factor” is a common personalization pitfall. The more individualized your messaging, the more value you need to bring. In other words, the more the customer has to feel they have an actual relationship with your brand.

We have a sneaking suspicion that the consumers that felt violated because of personalization have fallen victim to the bad practices some retailers use — at their own peril — with incessant retargeting and cart abandonment messages for items a person has already purchased or doesn’t even want.

That should not be a huge hurdle, frankly, because personalization enables marketers to bring so much more value to their messaging and to the customer experience. That’s just one reason that simple messages such as, “thank you” and “happy birthday,” are so powerful.

Betabrand Birthday email

They’re helping to transition a relationship from transactional to personal. That’s something every savvy marketer wants, and something that customers need, too.