OPINION: Marketing Society - Time to collude with consumers, not just intrude

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

into understanding.



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.



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