As capitalism with its “selling,” and consumerism with its “buying,” approach saturation in the Western world, marketing, as a discipline, finds itself facing an increasingly difficult proposition – “how can it sell more to consumers who have everything and refuse to be sold to?”
Impressions Versus Relationships
Traditional marketing is built upon the belief that brand impressions, whether consciously pereived or not, motivate the consumer and translate into purchase decisions through unconscious mechanisms. Thus traditional marketing has been built upon achieving a predominance of mental impressions.
With the vast prolifferation of brands, the advent of new media, and the fragmentation of markets, the short answer to sell more for traditional marketing has been to take its wares to market at every possible point of contact and to commandeer the public. This has invoked the ire of consumers who resent the turning of every relationship and occasion into a sales interaction. Once passive, the target audiences of today are turning into a society that resists the commercialization of every contact and element of culture.
Today, people are able to avoid and edit media, shift their day parts, and cover their tracks, making themselves unavailable to marketers. This situation has marketing facing a crisis that requires radical new thinking, and possibly a fundamental transformation of the entire marketing model as regards how marketing connects with its various audiences. Recent thinking among marketers, is falling into two camps:
1) Experience-based Marketing
Thinkers in this camp believe they simply must try harder, and that they can do so by trumping “lifestyle marketing” and “liberation marketing” with a new rallying cry, “experience-based marketing.” This new approach will inconspicuously place brand identity inside important or entertaining cultural content (movies, music, television programming), such that the consumer won’t realize or mind the fact that they are being marketed to because they will be having a “brand experience” seamless with its respective content.
These marketers intend to create new partnerships with the creators and producers of as yet largely untapped media “content” that will allow them to commercialize it to a greater degree. This will allow brands to drive more impressions into the minds of consumers, and content programmers to receive more revenues through media placements and de facto celebrity endorsements.
2) Permission-based Marketing
Thinkers in this camp believe that there is a fundamental paradigm shift occurring across the economy, and that if commerce will remain robust and growing, it will be because of a changed relationship between marketers and consumers. They believe it is necessary to reinvent the traditional marketing model from an intrusion-based approach to that of an invitation-based approach, the so-called “permission marketing” much talked about during the rollout of the internet.
In this approach, marketers begin by recognizing and respecting the privacy of the individuals to whom they wish to market, and entering that privacy only if those individuals indicat their desire to learn about the respective product or service being offered.
Manipulation Versus Willing Consumers
The “experience-based” approach, driven by those players who have already saturated every available marketing medium, hangs its future hopes upon impregnating even further the elements of modern culture previously not fair game for respectable marketing, with new instances of brand identity. At its extreme, this approach would increasingly reduce all media experiences to commerce, and all such perceptions would include brands and commercial messages. We have all seen examples of this, whether the gratuitous soda can in “Friends,” or the ISP advertisement in your latest compact disk.
In the short-term this approach would produce a strategic alliance of sorts between marketers and the producers of content, such as film and television, with the intent of making the vehicles of each profession the vehicles of the other. This suggests a future world filled with the experience you have when you receive a very personal e-mail from your spouse with an advertisement at the bottom from the provider of his or her free e-mail service.
Must marketing creep into the art and culture of modern media and our most personal communications? Many think this will only drive consumers away from both brands and media in the same way that telephone solicitors ensure non-purchase with their repetitive telephone calls.
Permission-based marketers believe that the consumer marketing model based upon manipulation and the repetitive presentation of the same impressions, while powerful and useful, is no longer able to build brand loyalty.
Permission-based marketing is founded upon respect for the individual and his or her free-will. Permission-based marketing begins viewing each individual as a person, and only shifts to consider him or her as a consumer if the person grants a free-will interest in the products or services being offered.
Thus, by treating the individual first as an end in him or herself, permission-based marketing is founded on an inherently ethical basis. Traditional marketing, based upon achieving the greatest number of brand impressions and perceptions, is no respecter of persons. Rather it always views the individual as a consumer, as always fair game, and thus as a means to an end, the end of volume, revenues, market share, and earnings.
Permission-based marketing suggests that the brands that respect the potential consumer, will invite the individual to interact with their brands on their own terms, for their reasons, on their time, and in their place as defined by the individual.
Choosing a permission-based relationship with the consumer doesn’t mean the end of marketing as an activity, it is about relationship-building. This new, permission-based approach to marketing promises more effective and repeatable “selling,” and more engaged and fulfilling “buying.” With the consumers’ freely given attention and interest, it becomes possible to influence their attitudes and behavior and deliver mutually beneficial value to all parties. Under this new approach to marketing, marketing, and most importantly, branding and brand-building continue as legitimate disciplines, but with interested and willing parties. Once the target audience is engaged, the real marketing begins.
Copyright © 2003 KLM, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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