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The revolving door of push marketing


Push marketing — gone forever?

Peer-to-peer marketing and social networking infiltrate every corner of Web 2.0 living. Naturally, marketing bloggers and pros surmise that push marketing has left the building.

Then, along comes the recession  and some — count me in — step back and say, “Really?”

Consider some stats that TNS Intelligence recently shared with DM News. TNS reports that consumer packaged goods manufacturers are actually spending more on promotional-style advertising in 2009.

Only two categories have seen spending growth 1st and 2nd quarter for 2009, compared to the same period 2008:

Internet display advertising is up 6.5%

Free-standing inserts are up 4.6%.

What’s most interesting is that growth comes against significant drops in direct marketing. Compared to the first half of 2008, DM ad spending plummeted 14.3%.  Declines in overall ad spending, meanwhile, capped lower at 14%.

That’s why I’m holding back on doom articles like The twitter of a threat to traditional push marketing, M. Nutley, MARKETING WEEK, (March 12, 2009): 7-8.

Four recent experiences also cause me to question if push-pull marketing is nearing extinction. Let me counter: push marketing is being re-interpreted for the digital arena.

First stop: My Twitter box

With push comes noise

Whose noise is it?

For so many, our Twitter walls feature a regular clutter of teaser-tweets proclaiming every variation of “Hows,” “Whys,” and “Tips.” Sent by spammer-followers,  messages pitch 140-character solutions I wasn’t seeking for problems I wasn’t aware I had.

Sounds like classic hard sell or CPG push to me. No thanks — my loyalty and trust rest with my Tweeples.

I don’t want some third-party shouting to disrupt authentic dialogue within a trust-based, open community. How do I respond? I don’t. I react to the noise by blocking such followers.

If the message sounds hard-sell or out of date, it’s not the fault of the media or technology (e.g., a once high-tech radio from the ’20s). Keep your eye on the spammer.

Second stop: My snail-mail box

1936 June and Julia at the mailbox

What's sweeter than your spring catalog?

Data-based marketing and CRM once promised rewards for my loyalty. Recession marketing and the rise of customer-managed relationships continue to weaken that dynamic. Speed dating seems to have replaced relationship marketing for the moment.

Increasingly, marketers offer shoppers short-term perks for acting sooner vs. later on impulse purchases. Not that there’s anything wrong with promotion — except when it’s managed as a silo. It’s a proven fall-back for generating sales and maintaining brand awareness in tough economic times. It pushes shoppers and buyers down a pipeline when the clouds of open-source are upon us. Is it possible to do both at the same time with no loss in long-term brand integrity or customer loyalty? I seem to recall research that says not.

My mailbox bears out the TNS Intelligence. More free-standing inserts, oversized self-mailers, and postcards. I’ve even received a 9×12 clear envelope inserted with a personalized letter (front) and a sell sheet (back).

Visually, such formats waste no time in shouting “Attention” and “Action,” leaving precious little room for Interest and Desire. Think of it as Red Bull engagement.

Here’s a healthy reminder:

Classic direct marketing, particularly catalogs, builds relationships with loyal customers and readers, like this miss skimming her family’s newly arrived Burpee Seed catalog in 1936.

Third stop: My social bookmarks

Brass Doors

Right time - right place?

A Worldcat search of push marketing actually shows a sharp increase in publications on the subject. The titles split between doom views and insider guides to pushing in  a social age.  This leads me to suggest again that push marketing and social media are still in negotiation. They will end up in the same space— digital, physical, or emotional.

Final stop: A business luncheon presentation

A distinguished speaker at a recent luncheon for industry thought leaders presented a model of a new commercial paperless postal system. Having evolved from its green roots, the emerging model suggests that consumers continue to have an interest in a push marketplace where they can control ad exposure as well as the level and quality of the noise. Even in their mailbox.

light art of modern seesaw

You push, I'll pull, ok?

Will consumers be loyal to a controlled, digital push-marketing environment and the marketers who sell there? A definite, tentative yes. As long as the content exceeds the level of noise, and only if the media or channel exceeds expectations in providing a service or solving a problem. It’s certainly a breakthrough concept in context, content, and intent.

Conclusion: If it feels like push, it probably is.

In tough economic times, advertisers and their agencies are hard pressed to generate sales and maintain awareness. The shift to Web 2.0 still has many traditional marketers skeptical or bemused. So a fall-back to the most enticing of the 4ps – price – is natural.

My action plan for watching push marketing:

  1. Refresh on Lester Wunderman’s 19 principles of a successful direct marketing campaign.
  2. Sign up for a paperless postal account.
  3. Continue to block pitch/spam tweeters.
  4. Start  a Twitter dialogue. Join in and include #rmc.
  5. Welcome your comments here.

P.S. Please click through the  photos and visit the galleries of Flickr® Pros Dan Andersen (top) and That Guy called Ben (bottom).


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