Regression. It is a chilling thought for business leaders and marketers. More disturbing is that for many businesses it is, seemingly a current reality.
Individual, sector and collective advertising have regressed, gone backwards to pre-1962 style advertising.
A review of much current advertising highlights a preponderance of product/price/place cataloguing in national, state, metropolitan and local newspapers, together with the copy of direct-mail pieces, along with the focus of television, radio and online communications. There is scant or no evidence of projecting the promises, advantages and benefits of value.
Little wonder business owners and managers report limited and spasmodic responses to advertising (regardless of the media utilised), heightened price sensitivity and a decided lack of consumer loyalty, repeat and referral business. These are natural consequences of communication which lacks emotion, positioning, brand imaging and, above all, consumer and broader market education.
“Price catalogue” advertising and merchandising presumes consumers/readers/ viewers/listeners are aware of brand attributes, are informed about features and points of difference, have determined value and are now simply seeking to conclude a purchase decision based on the best available price. That is a reasonable presumption for not more than 20% of customers for a broad sweep of products and services.
The primary concern for marketing analysts and strategists should correspond with that of all business owners, managers, sales and service professionals. The core focus should be on the 80%+ of prospective customers and consumers who could be, and will greatly value being educated, marketed and sold to, so that they can conclude informed discerning and value-based decisions.
Sadly, too many jewellery, hardware, fashion accessories, cosmetics and other discretionary product categories are being “sold” on price discounting.
Bold price-centric “Sale” advertising copy replies on the economic rationality of consumers, in an era in which established business models have been replaced, and which is driven and influenced by sentiment.
Calls for significant 0.5% and 1% reductions in official interest rates by retailers, home builders, real estate agents and property developers are, perhaps, understandable, but misplaced.
Lower interest rates will not stimulate widespread improvements in consumer and public confidence. A lack of confidence is not the major impediment or “head wind” that is inhibiting demand and sales.
Consumers have changed. By and large, they are not afflicted by a lack of confidence. Most individuals, couples, families and corporate executives and boards of directors have embraced and are adhering to a strong measure of financial prudence.
In short, they can spend, but are not doing so because they feel the “rewards” from saving exceed those enjoyed by spending at this time.
A large percentage of the full-and multi-page price-centric newspaper advertising is not recognising, addressing or redressing the new marketplace frame-of-reference.
WHO'S TO BLAME?
During a recent interview on Perth radio station 6PR, host Paul Entwistle stated that he had withdrawn from his university studies in marketing because his lecturers exhibited a consistent over emphasis on price-based marketing.
He earnestly believed that he was being subjected to lectures on sales, not marketing and that there was a better and more profitable way to do business.
It was a sobering wake-up call from an astute, 30-something media commentator.
Perhaps a new product-oriented selling era has evolved. To Paul, it had all the hallmarks of regression, and with it all the downsides of extreme price sensitivity, lack of loyalty and widespread ignorance and indifference about the innate value of recognised, trusted brand names.
The companies, products, services and applications that are enjoying local, regional, national and global success have common philosophies, attributes and marketing strategies. Apple, Twitter, Microsoft and Nike respect and utilise their recognised and trusted brand names, with an emphasis on product and service development, enhancement and support.
For these entities, innovation and creativity are not aspirational goals. They are realities and imperatives - core values. Discounting, sales and price offers seem incompatible and inconsistent with their respective and collective market presence.
There is a certain “feel-good” factor in deciding to buy, own and operate those brands. The measure is subjective and the outcomes are value and customer satisfaction.
POST-WAR BABY BOOMERS
There is nothing post about the “baby-boomer” generation.
Those born during 1945 – 1962 experienced and were an integral part of the birth of marketing and the consumer era.
The first school of marketing in the world was established at Harvard in 1947. Birth rights were assigned to the “Consumer Era” in 1962, as the first of baby boomers reached 17 years of age, left school, secured employment and began consuming in earnest.
The emphasis on product features was subsumed by brand names, images, fun, freedom, choice and emotion, Carnaby Street, Jane Asher, Twiggy, The Beatles and projected images, to which the new consumer era purchasers wanted to relate.
Many younger generation X, Y and Z members relate to, enjoy and are influenced by the music, lifestyle pursuits and images of the marketing era.
The calendar year 2013 is a tipping point, during which there will be a change of direction by those seeking success. They will discard regression, embrace progression and become involved in the procession of emotions, marketing and value.