Get Over Yourself. Let’s Talk More About Me. And the Marketers Who Get That Consumer Mindset - The Past 10 Years of Direct Marketing Part 4
[Editor's Note: This is the fourth article in an eight-part, weekly series.]
It's never been clearer than while researching this article that consumers aren't thinking about you at all—ever. They're looking for themselves in you, if they notice you at all. How do you make them look? How do you make them feel? Which of their problems do you solve? What does spending time and money with you get them? Noticed? Affirmed? Appreciated? If not by their friends, then by you?
Sure, it's possible that, over time, customers can start to think of you as you and not an extension of themselves. But those are customers. We're talking consumers, here. They expect you to care about them.
Some legacy brands get it—Oreo. Coke. Nike. Ford.
Some new ones understand, too—Spanx. Apple. Amazon. Pete Holmes. Huh? I'll explain.
Some legacy brands understand that concept, too. Sure, there's the time Oreo tweeted during the Super Bowl blackout that disappointed fans could dunk sandwich cookies in the dark. But the snack first marketed in 1912 still continues to join in on today's conversations. On July 15, tweeting along with everyone else who came up with a comment about this trending topic, @Oreo writes: "It's not you, it's milk. #WorstBreakUpExcuse." Within an hour, 220 Twitter users retweeted the quote and 107 favorited it.
You could argue that both of those brands are specifically trying to appeal to younger consumers. There may be some truth in that. But it's not just Millennials who seem averse to hearing marketing messages.
For instance, back in the day, comedian Bill Hicks suggested marketers kill themselves. The message in his 1990s standup routines was that marketers were evil. That's a purely negative sentiment. Now the message from the anti-marketing contingent is less angry, but just as effective. Brands having to market themselves directly without traditional campaigns now even include artists, because consumers are demanding it. So hugs replaced hate.
These new "anti-marketing" marketing messages seem to work on the premise that marketing isn't only a mass or push campaign anymore; it's become a friend and joined the conversation.
With this type of marketing done right, customers are subtly and even unconsciously inserting brands into regular conversations with their friends. In the case of Nike, for instance, runners who use anything from the app to the "Nike+ FuelBand" to track their progress often share that information with their Facebook friends through messages like, "I just started a run with Nike+ Running. Cheer me on with comments or likes and I'll hear it along the way."
Ford chose to use social networks like Facebook to have conversations with customers, sure, but it also chose to answer consumer questions there. Armed with knowledge about new vehicle models, those consumers often bought the new Ford vehicles and came back to Facebook to tell Ford so.
More overtly, Coca-Cola decided in 2011 to leverage this new marketing reality to double the size of its business by 2020. Changing its marketing "from creative excellence to content excellence," Target Marketing magazine blogger Yory Wurmser notes, "Coke has shifted its emphasis from a controlled message to seeding and contributing to a more free-flowing conversation." With nearly 70 million "likes" on its Facebook page alone, it appears at least part of Coca-Cola's initiative may be working. "Ten [percent] to 20 percent of the content and conversation on our brands comes from us," says Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola's senior vice president of integrated marketing. "The other 80 percent-plus comes from others." (On July 15, the Facebook page tallied 875,499 people talking about Coca-Cola. Conversations included how to use Coke bottles to house lightning bugs and that the chance to win $100,000 for your favorite park just ended.)
Younger companies get it, too. Instead of offering 10 percent off for signing up for email notifications, Spanx tells site visitors they can get 10 percent off on their birthdays.
Amazon doesn't just list random products; it tailors them based on the visitor's history. For instance, when I visit the site at work and don't sign in, Amazon shows me six marketing books. When I sign in, it shows me six pages of them. (Many other marketers do this, as well. So this example is easily shared among many of you.)
For the last example, however, I'll have to trust Target Marketing blogger Debra Ellis: "Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson must have a secret formula. Customer loyalty for them goes beyond the norm. Calling the people who buy their products 'customers' doesn't do justice. 'Raving fans' is a much better description."
As for me, I have an Android, drink tea and take public transportation. But I can always use a hug.