How to Combat Marketing Resistance

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Marketing productivity is down, and marketing resistance is up. It’s tough to disagree with the statements that Craig Wood, group president of marketing research firm/consultancy Yankelovich, made in the beginning of his luncheon keynote speech at the Kansas City Direct Marketing Days on March 7. To improve response amid this resistance, he continued, marketers continue to send more messages. That’s why whereas in the 1970s the average consumer saw 300-500 ad messages a day, today he is bombarded with 3,000-5,000. The result: even more consumer resistance.

Wood gave several reasons for this resistance—all of which underscore why simply adding more messages won’t boost response:

• Consumers think they’re smarter than ever and view the ability to see through hype as very important. They’re more suspicious and less trusting of advertising and businesses in general.

• The “democratization of luxury.” “Everyone thinks they expect the highest level of service,” Wood said. Thanks to $3 cups of coffee, they’re now surrounded by little pieces of luxury and have come to expect them.

• Consumers want greater relevance in the marketing they receive. They feel they can no longer “give away” their valuable time to marketing. That’s why, Wood said, “consumers are looking for some sort of reciprocity” for receiving marketing. It doesn’t have to be cash; entertainment, for instance, is a type of payment.

For marketing to be effective today, Wood said, it needs to go from “dominion” to “concurrence.” Not only does it need to be precise and relevant—long-standing keystones to successful programs—but it also needs to provide power to consumers and to pay them. Again, though, this payment needn’t be cash. It can be “a better sales experience, entertainment, a little beauty,” he said.

All of which ties in to what Wood said are the five trends driving direct marketing:

1) iPriority, which he defined as “doing what’s right for you.” It’s not a repeat of the “me generation” thinking of the 1980s, however. “It’s not all about me. It’s more about being true to yourself and putting your needs first.” This sentiment can be seen in the rise in people treating themselves to visits to day spas, for instance.

2) Willful disobedience, or “being naughty once in a while…saying it’s okay to color outside the lines once in a while,” Wood explained. Kids wearing pajamas to school and “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” are examples.

3) The upside of obscurity. “It’s finally okay to be a little bit different,” Wood said. He used the success of the documentary “March of the Penguins” as an example: “When it first came out, seeing it was an obscure thing to do.” But obscure in a fashionable way, as evidenced by the word of mouth that eventually led to it taking in more than $80 million in box office.

4) Age nullification. “It’s about being chronologically irrelevant.” That’s why baby boomers on average see “old age” as starting at age 75—roughly the average life expectancy of Americans.

5) Looping. “It’s about understanding what’s going on behind the scenes,” Wood said. “In some ways it’s about taking the need to know to a new level.” Clearly this ties in to consumers’ lack of trust in advertising and businesses. The more they feel they know, the more trusting they’re likely to be.

To make these trends work for you, Wood said, you need to put attitudinal information into your database alongside the demographic and behaviorial data. As an example of “targeting with attitude,” he referred to a midsize cataloger/retailer that understood its customers demographically—older, middle-income women—but not attitudinally. After conducting customer research, however, it found that 75% of its customers fell into one of two attitudinal groups. Group one consisted of cynical, nostalgic homebodies who favored the tried-and-true; group two was made up of forward-thinking, style-conscious buyers who were price- and feature-driven.

The company refined its marketing to these two group, going so far as to tailor product descriptions for each. For instance, when it crafted copy for a double-boiler that emphasized the past (“just like Mom used to use”), it obtained a 48% lift for that one item among the group. In fact, overall both groups saw a double-digit lift in response, Wood said.

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