Change The Way You Promote Your Business, Or Else

Over the past several decades, the marketing function has undergone evolutionary change.    During the 1950′s and 1960′s, marketing was fairly simple.  There were fewer product categories and fewer products.  There were few media vehicles: television was just coming of age, there were only a few major weekly magazines, and FM radio had yet to be heard. In the 1970′s, alternative radio, UHF television, special interest magazines, and the growing sophistication of direct mail brought greater diversity to the marketing mix.  Marketers began to focus on niche markets.  Successful products spawned product extensions.  New categories developed almost overnight as consumers demanding social change also sought more diversity and uniqueness in their lives. The 1980′s saw the conglomeration of the marketing industry with the advent of mega-agencies such as McCann Worldwide and Saachi & Saachi.  As a result, many skilled executives who were “downsized” formed “boutique” agencies and began specializing in their particular promotional forte.  Niche marketing became more focused.

The 1990′s offered an even more perplexing set of marketing and promotional options:  hundreds of cable television channels; radio stations featuring shock jocks and Christian Coalitions; magazines for every pursuit, profession, or perversion.  And most startling of all, the Internet!

The 21st Century has proven to be even more perplexing.  Today, the challenge to advertisers is: 

“How do you go from interrupting people because you want to, to interrupting people because they want to be interrupted?”

This represents a fundamental shift in the way marketers must look at their customers.  And it represents a fundamental shift in the way the media reaches their readers, listeners, or viewers.

For instance, it might mean giving away content to prospective customers in exchange for permission to communicate with them.  In a sense, you are saying to somebody, “If you allow me to talk to you, I will send you my monthly newsletter.” 

Or a retailer might say, “Every week I will send you $10 worth of coupons for shopping at my store.”  Then, the retailer can go to vendors and say, “These people want your ad as content.”

Broadcast media are having a particularly difficult time dealing with the new technologies.  Remote controls have made it easier to “zip” from channel to channel.  TiVo and Replay TV only make it harder for advertisers to reach their audiences. The bottom line: Viewers may never have to hear a commercial again unless they want to. How can TV make the transition?  Here’s one way:  Let’s say you’re ready to buy a car.  With nearly an infinite number of cable channel options, you can tune into the General Motors Channel and watch 24 hours of infomercials about their array of automobile alternatives.  

The Internet is the most interactive marketing tool.  For instance, most people agree word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising.  The Internet digitally enhances it.

First, everyone has more acquaintances today than ever before.  There are all sorts of people you can touch today using email that you never would have picked up the phone to call previously. 

So now, when you have a bad experience with a car rental firm, you might tell your whole email list.  Or if you have a terrific meal at a new restaurant, you might tell 50 people, whereas before, you might have told two.  And this word-of-mouth doesn’t lose something in the translation.  It’s digital; it can simply be forwarded.

Second, people are way more receptive to new technologies.  It took radio 40 years to reach 10 million listeners.  YouTube had 57 million users after just one year.  New ideas and new products have a much better chance of reaching more people sooner.

Lastly, personalization is king.  If it doesn’t appeal to MY particular peculiarities, you’re not really marketing to ME. 

Several leading food companies have begun to recognize this, and now allow you to customize your food and beverage choices.  Go to Procter & Gamble’s, answer a few questions about your ideal cup of java and your taste in certain foods, and receive a personal “tasteprint” for your perfect cup of coffee. 

The future of marketing is in Permission Promoting.  Consumers want what they want, when they want it. 

The advertisers who win will be the ones who come up with a deal for the reader, the viewer, or the consumer that says, “Watch this because there’s something in it for you.”

About the author:
Robert Grede, syndicated columnist, frequent contributor to magazines, and the author of the best selling Naked Marketing - The Bare Essentials (Prentice Hall) is a familiar face on television and radio talk shows. He speaks on Marketing, Strategy, and New Product Development at universities, civic organizations, and corporate venues.
My website is at:


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