Build Relationships and connect.

recession

Image by kris247

Under the title “Say Goodbye To Experimental Spending In 2009”, Mediapost’s Mark Walsh writes about a panel at ad:tech new York on media planning and buying the digital era. He quotes Donna Speciale, Mediavest USA: “09 is not the year for testing. Brands want to stick with areas that are tried and true.”

The question is: What areas are tried and true? The diminishing value of advertising on TV? The increasing banner blindness of people? The continuous decline of newspaper advertising value? Or is it just Google? Donna Speciale might be talking about tried and true areas for her agency: Good commissions for big campaigns. Efficient delivery of mass messages. That might be in the best interest of her agency. But it’s not in the best interest of brands.

Just ask Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson or Henkel AG: The WSJ reports that all those CPG giants are seeing a consumer trend abandoning brand loyalty due to the economic crisis. Store brands are on the rise, 25% of consumers say they don’t really see a difference between national brands and store brand of paper products, sales of Gain rose by 10% while the pricier Tide has weaker results, 25% of upper-income consumers gave up favorite brands over six months in 2008 and private-label versions of soap and other bath products are up 23% in the last 12 months.

I guess those tried and true areas don’t work that well.

And, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. How can you communicate with people when you treated them like sheep and target audiences for the longest time? How can you hope to get your message across in the age of media snacking? Do you really believe anybody cares about your brand when they have bills to pay, mouths to feed and the constant barrage of bad news to digest? And how much less do they care about your advertising?

People are cutting back. People are trying to save each and every penny. You should cut back, too. Cut back on the mass approach. Cut back on the reach and frequency philosophy. Cut back on the tactics that lead people to negate your brand and go to private labels.

Instead, build relationships. Learn as much as you can about your customers. There are a gazillion tools out there that allow you to connect with people. It’s easy to break a brand bond when there’s no relationship between people and the brand. 

Rethink your CRM systems. Are they only beneficial to you? What benefits do people get out of them? How can you transform your current CRM system to facilitate a real, authentic relationship with people? 

Rethink your company structure. If you consider Conversational Marketing/Social Media as a tactic, an execution, a short-term band-aid: Please stick to the tried and true areas. But, if you see Social Media as a game-changer, as an opportunity to strategically revamp your business and open new markets – this might be the biggest opportunity to change your category and become/remain the biggest player on the block. 

To adjust Obama’s quote: (Building relationships) “alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.”

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