TiVo: now there's a four-letter word to send a shiver down the
corridors of commercial television if ever I heard one. Will the
prospect of empowered consumers filtering commercial messages out of
their evening in front of the box relegate TV advertising to non-league
status? Some say it's inevitable.
I would argue that the British public already filters out what they
don't want to see. Witness the dash for the kettle during the ad breaks
in Millionaire and tell me I'm wrong. Add the 40,000 hours of TV
available each week to your average media-saturated Sky Digital viewer
and you'll see why the old adage that media planning isn't rocket
science is wrong. How can you get through to the media-savvy,
self-selecting 21st century consumer?
Nowadays people want information that helps them make proper, informed
choices before they make a buying decision. Gathering and using customer
data effectively allows businesses to treat their customers much more as
individuals, and if you can discover how and when your customer would
like to be communicated with, you're on the right track toward creating
a rewarding relationship with them. But the form of dialogue between
companies and consumers must be right one. Research from the Henley
Centre shows customers welcome dialogue with their favourite brands - as
long as it is on their terms.
At this point let me introduce a new concept - the 'prosumer'. In the
age of the prosumer, successful companies will take the time to gather
enough data on existing and potential customers, turn that data into
knowledge and then create a dialogue through which to turn the knowledge
Profiling your customers in this way enables you to adopt a more subtle
and personal approach.
And what is the best form of communication? Most firms adopt a
mixed-media approach. And there is little doubt that mail, in all its
forms, is in the vanguard of the growing data-gathering market.
Agencies of various types with expertise in both the fuel (customer
databases) and the medium (mail) propose that a data strategy is central
to a company's commercial success.
While some companies are good at communicating with their customers,
others communicate badly, use the wrong mix of channels, or fail to
communicate at all.
When the internet fuelled an explosive growth in the number of dotcom
consumer businesses, pundits predicted the web would be the ideal
vehicle for firms to create one-to-one communications with consumers.
But look at what happened.
The continued growth and effectiveness of mail media shows that some
traditional methods of marketing and building relationships with
customers, honed to the needs of the modern consumer age, remain highly
successful in the digital age.
The lesson for marketing professionals is that whatever media mix they
use, it must contain at least one medium that zeros in on the demands of
their customers and satisfies their requirements. The traditional
advertising model has always been based on intrusion. Perhaps the way
forward is collusion.