Marketing on the Move
Since it’s that time of the year, let’s use the opportunity to take a bit of a long-term view. Also, it makes this issue last just a little while longer. So what are the most important trends that govern marketing today, and how to answer them?
Consumers are increasingly aware of the advertising techniques used by marketers. According to a study by the British Future Foundation Group, this causes two types of cynicism. First, some good news from one group, older and well-educated consumers: they are on to us, they see through all the tricks of the trade, but they still love us. FFG found that among this group there is still a basic trust in the quality of advertising, and of the goods and services themselves. Younger consumers do not share in this cynicism: they simply lack experience in judging the messages aimed at them.
A second type of cynicism is found among a more diverse group, consisting of top earners and bottom earners. Mostly men, relatively well-educated, they actively resist and mistrust the influence of advertising. The reasons differ. Rich guys think advertising doesn’t apply to them; the poor ones simply think they don’t have the money to pay attention to it.
What to do about it? Approach these groups in a more intelligent way. Make them think, don’t be too obvious. Humour also works well when against cynicism. But not too crude. And never underestimate them.
OK, so youngsters are not cynical about advertising. But do they pay attention to it? Not necessarily, it turned out at the recent ‘What Teens Want’ Conference in New York. They hate to be seen as a target group; don’t like the feeling that they are being targeted at all; their viewing and reading habits change so fast that they are very hard to reach through traditional media; they loathe email and SMS advertising; and they consider relationship management and event marketing definitely uncool.
Well, that clears that up. So how to reach them? Turns out, more than ever it’s all about ‘cool’. At the conference, the term ‘outlaws’ was coined – as far as the Laws of Marketing are concerned, not the Criminal Code, fortunately. The idea that standard patterns do not apply to you is increasingly popular. Approach young consumers like Bonnie and Clyde, appeal to their desires for independence, and you’ll conquer their hearts. A company like Nike for example has understood this very well.
One trend applies to all consumers, young and old, rich and poor, male and female. We are being bombarded with messages. I won’t start again about spam since everybody seems to need to say something about it nowadays, but something similar applies to all other media. TV and radio, magazines and billboards, our post boxes, inboxes and our handphone screens, everything around us beams messages at us. There is simply no escape.
As a result, attention spans have reached an historic low, and it’s become increasingly difficult to raise your voice above the fray. Long term effects from overexposure are even more dangerous. People might turn their backs on marketing and advertising, as now threatens to happen with email marketing due to the spam deluge.
Marketing and advertising is increasingly about relevance. Messages that are relevant to the situation in which they are broadcast have a significantly lower irritation threshold, and come across much more efficiently. Targeting is another form of relevance: relevance to the receiver, rather than to the situation. If I am subjected to a message that is within my sphere of interest, whether solicited or unsolicited, chances are I won’t be annoyed. As long as I’m not being called during dinner, that is.
The key to achieving relevance is data. Basing your marketing efforts on databases filled with information about your customers or your consumers becomes increasingly important. It will be the engine that drives your campaigns, finding the people that you need to target, or finding moments, events or situations that are relevant.
Which brings us to the most important trend of today’s marketing. As data are ever more important, so is the need to handle them responsibly. As consumers become more savvy, they become more acutely aware of possible abuse. Adding insult to potential injury, media are reaching ever closer to the skin. It is no surprise that spam has caused an outcry that far exceeds previous irritation levels about Direct Mail, or commercial interruptions of television programs.
All these things make the public increasingly aware of their privacy, and the need to guard it jealously. At the same time, the use of personal information goes up, and will keep going up if we don’t want to drown in a sea of noise.
The future is for the marketers who manage to get permission from their consumers to use their information; who use that information to stay relevant to their target groups; and who make it clear that they treat their consumers’ information with all the safeguards it deserves.
I call it the post-spam era.