Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Death of Push Marketing

Some thoughts on the death of 'push marketing' and the corresponding rise of ‘authenticity’, consumer involvement and giving back…

Aug. '07: What’s ‘Push Marketing’?

It’s what we enjoyed from the late 1800’s until about 2005. It involves manufacturers making stuff they want us to buy from them, putting ads in newspapers and on TV shows and radio stations where it is difficult to avoid being exposed to them, then paying retail stores to put these products in prominent locations on the shelf. It also involves the retailers pushing back and telling manufacturers that, if they wanted to bring out a new flavour or pack size or product, they had to take an existing product off their shelves. The manufacturers and retailers controlled what consumers purchased, including what we believed about the benefits of the ‘brands.’ There was no access to any information other than the manufacturer’s advertising.

“Web 2.0”: the Birth of “Pull Marketing”, Where Consumers Are in Control

Things changed with the advent of “Web 2.0” in about 2006. Web 2.0 was actually not anything new, it was merely the moment in time when sufficient households had computers, broadband and sufficient internet surfing experience, in addition to most businesses and organizations having web sites plus web software being sufficiently ‘user-friendly,’ for internet communication to become commonplace. Suddenly ‘TV ad zapping,’ used to avoid the endlessly repeated commercials, was not the only phenomenon disaffecting the manufacturers’ expensive marketing efforts, people had a endlessly entertaining and flexible alternative to TV! Zounds! “How will we control their behavior now?” cried the manufacturers and media companies.

With the arrival of open communication between strangers over a real-time network, the era of ‘push marketing’ ended in it’s traditional form. Suddenly manufacturers had to worry a LOT about what their consumers where saying online in forums and blogs. People began to simply ignore advertising and started getting all the information they needed in order to decide what product they wanted to buy via the World Wide Web. American seniors started to buy their medication from Canada via the Internet. Control shifted into the hands and minds of the consumer.

The manufacturers’ early (actually on-going) attempts to ‘seed’ the Internet with their marketing messages caused a great deal of anger and cynicism on the part of consumers. (In actual fact, if major advertisers took the extraordinarily large budgets they continue to devote to TV advertising and spent that money on the internet, they could virtually ‘buy up’ most of the communication about their products – but there would still be the uncontrolled ‘specter’ of a negative PR backlash to deal with afterwards.) What this detrimental and costly attempt to ‘fix’ a PR disaster led to is a new consumer driven demand for authenticity, not whitewashing.

Authenticity, Originality and Intangibles

Consumers are now demanding honesty, full transparency, engagement and interaction from manufacturers and service providers. Either you have something truly different about your product that they love, or a ‘story’ that engages them, or a design that they think is cool, or a price-value relationship they feel is worthwhile, but don’t try to fool them or they WILL make you suffer!

In fact, when dealing with Millennials, there’s the additional demand for something else, something more intangible: an authentic and heartfelt passion for charitable corporate giving. Giving back to the community, helping the planet, being proactive and leading the charge. Their cry is ‘what have you done for us, all of us, lately?” (And there better be a response!)

In the new realm of ‘pull marketing,’ firms have to continually be reaching out, providing information and advice, helping, even guiding/leading, but never pushing. They’re expected to listen well and involve their consumers in the product development process, ensuring that the product features really, truly, match the consumers’ needs, not simply doing what the manufacturer thinks is right or sufficient. The ‘beta testing’ firms do these days leads to positive opinions floating about in the blogosphere and goodwill towards the brand. This helps protect the brand even if some errors are made along the way.

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