"Marketers are in the clutter business."
Research firm Yankelovich Partners recently debuted a new book, "Coming to Concurrence: Addressable Attitudes and the New Model for Marketing Productivity," at the DMA conference in October. The authors don't pretend to have discovered the solution to existing problems, but they put forward a number of compelling theses. Among them: Consumers' time is valuable, so in order to connect with them companies must provide some value to the customer in their communications.
Don Peppers and Martha Roger's great direct marketing (CRM) site http://www.1to1.com/ has a thought-provoking rewiew in brief, written by contributing editor Larry Dobrow:
The idea that consumers have less patience than ever before for commercial messaging isn't exactly a novel conclusion. But there are steps that weary companies might take to reverse the trend of consumer disinterest.
Co-author and Yankelovich president J. Walker Smith paints a picture of an industry stubbornly adhering to rules and principles that no longer pass muster with today's consumers. "The kind of hard-sell marketing from 50 years ago doesn't connect very well with people today," he explains. "Now, consumers say, 'I know about your product. If you want me to pay attention to your marketing, give me something of value in return.'"
Consumers aren't exactly shy about expressing their distaste for today's marketing. A study conducted in advance of the book found that 54 percent of people claim they will refuse to buy products from companies that bombard them with marketing. Similarly, 69 percent say they want products (pop-up blockers, etc.) that will shield them from the marketing deluge.
And yet, Yankelovich argues, most marketers have been hesitant to change their strategic and tactical approach. Though consumers are better educated and more empowered by technology than ever before, companies still cram a great percentage of their communications with information about product attributes -- essentially the marketing equivalent of preaching to the choir. They rarely appeal to the lifestyles and values that are important to modern consumers.
"There's almost no connection," Smith notes. "Marketing doesn't fit the current marketplace." He blames marketers for misusing the technology that might assist them in connecting with customers in a more compelling, less intrusive way. "We can be more precise and more relevant, but all we're doing with these technologies is using them to overwhelm people with things they don't want. Marketers are in the clutter business."
-- Going beyond demographics -- To this end, Yankelovich is pushing the notion of "addressable attitudes," which the firm defines as attitudes that can be linked with individuals in company databases. Historically, marketers have produced lists and/or bought media based on demographic data. But such lists are inherently imprecise. Yankelovich proposes deploying attitudes in company databases and using them the way demographics and behaviors are currently employed.
-- Put the power in consumers' hands -- Marketers, the book stresses, must cede power to consumers and must strive to provide reciprocity. Given such broad access to product information, consumers no longer want to be told what to do. Smith notes that companies have opened their doors to consumer input about product design and distribution options, yet refuse to give them a voice in the marketing process. He points to eBay as a company that "gets it": it allows customers to control just about every aspect of their experience, from the listing of items to communication to shipping.
As for reciprocity, Smith envisions a sort of quid pro quo: consumers will part with some of their time and attention, marketers will offer something in the way of entertainment (such as the five-minute films that greet visitors to the Dr. Martens Web site). All product alerts and other notifications, whether delivered electronically or via direct mail, will have to be reinvigorated with valuable information -- a golf tip, a recipe, a link to relevant Web sites. Provide a value proposition for the customer, and she will be more apt to engage and develop a relationship with the company.
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