A Demand for Relevance and Respect

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We’ve all noticed that the balance of power in the relationship between brands and consumers has been tilting in favour of the mass market in recent times – but to what extent is the ‘right to sell’ becoming the ‘right to buy or deny’?

The era of mass ‘push’ marketing is over, replaced with a demand for relevance and respect from today’s consumers. ‘Give me what I want and I’ll show you loyalty’ is their tenet as they control the conversations they have with brands who can no longer expect to succeed by bombarding people with unwanted mail, email or abstract TV ads.

The shopper of today is able to use the myriad hand-held technologies at their disposal to switch marketing messages on or off at will depending on their preferences, needs and even moods.

Consumers are now enjoying the force of pull marketing as an antidote to the push communications of an era that is disappearing from view.

On behalf of our clients, and with an eye on the wider marketing landscape, Acxiom recently launched a survey of 1,000 UK consumers to understand how people are finding their way around the multichannel marketing landscape. The dual questionnaire also asked 200 marketers for their thoughts on how they believe people are using technology to interact with – or shun – brands. The results were quite different to what many professionals might have expected. Taken from our research report ‘Tug of love: how technology is changing the relationship between consumers and brands, and what marketers can do about it, the findings include:

  • Consumers feel far more in control of their relationship with brands than marketers realised. When consumers were asked if they are ‘in control’ of their relationships with brands (meaning they feel that the communications they received are timely, relevant and reach them through their preferred media channels), more than four out of five people (82%) said they are. By contrast, the panel of marketers estimated that less than a third of people (30%) would feel in control across a range of industry sectors
  • Despite this feeling of control, one in four consumers still feel they receive “inappropriate” marketing communications; marketers generally have a much higher opinion of their industry’s work
  • Direct mail is reported by both customers and prospects as being in their top two preferences for receiving brand communications, with email the other choice. A total of 71% are happy to receive mail from organisations they are already customers of. Some 57% felt postal contact is an appropriate way to reach prospects. Some 78% of customers willingly accept email messages. The figure drops to 52% for prospects, but this is still the second most appropriate way of targeting people according to respondents
  • Marketers are unsure of the penetration of technology among consumers and have overestimated consumers’ preference for multiple touchpoints compared to more traditional, and personal, contact strategies
  • Text message marketing is only deemed appropriate by 9% of customers. Marketers are wide of the mark with their estimate, thinking a quarter welcome text messages. SMS is even more outlawed by prospects (4%), although marketers seem to understand not to spam them with texts, feeling 5% are receptive to messages through the channel. Just 4% of customers approve of contact through Twitter and the same proportion through other social media. Marketers are cautious about using these channels, estimating 5% of customers like to be contacted this way. They also believe 5% of prospects are happy to receive marketing via social media; the actual figure is 6%.

Although the pendulum has been swinging away from brands towards consumers for some time, our survey responses show only a minority of marketers realise how much the landscape has shifted.

But this doesn’t mean the loyalty-seeking marketer no longer has opportunities to build long-lasting relationships. There is a wealth of data available which can be collected and analysed to underpin brilliant contact strategies.

Creating successful campaigns of the future will rely on treating each consumer as an individual customer or prospect, knocking on the door rather than barging in. With the help of holistic, accurate data, collected across all channels, marketers will truly understand what people want to receive, when, and through which media – and ultimately begin to create the loyal customer relationships they desire.

Access the full report,‘Tug of love: how technology is changing the relationship between consumers and brands, and what marketers can do about it


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