Old School Marketing

Marketing has always had a series of series of simple consistent truths in my view.  What we are about, as Marketers, is to grow the equity of our brands through increasing awareness and consideration of that brand to group(s) of consumers who will be appealed by the promise the brand makes.  Be that promise a product or a service. That is, as a minimum, a good simple starting hypothesis.

Has anything changed in 2012 that makes us question how we deliver that?  Is this old school truism still as valid today as when Gibbs SR ran the first UK TV ad on ITV, or when Pears went into print media with their soap ads?

My world of marketing is Financial Services so I will focus on aspects of that to at least test what has changed.

Looking back we conducted our business differently 57 years ago when that TV ad ran for the first time.  Branches and door to door salesman dominated in the age before the rise of TV and before advertising really took a hold, Mad Men and all !

Lets look at one of those models with a marketing lens;

The idea of an Insurance Agent / Door to Door Insurance salesman calling at your home to collect premiums, assess your contents value / claims and so on, belongs to an era before mobile phones, before computers and before the workforce was mobile.  More contentiously this was not as “equal” a society as we are blessed with now: the decision maker was often the single (male) worker, paid typically in cash.  Media consumption was low and the salesman in this industrial society model, was respected and was a constant across a generation. This was an unsophisticated world … but is that true of the manner by which marketing disciplines drove sales;

Breaking this down, can we see evidence of significant change or of an unsophisticated approach?

  • Awareness – the salesmen themselves were the brand largely … even recently customers, in my practical experience, would consider their relationship to be with the salesman rather than supplier of the service/product.  They became part of the local community by their ubiquity.
  • Geographic targeting was simply defined by the size of your patch …and in some cases, in the early days, how far you wanted to walk or cycle.
  • CRM and ‘Know your Customer’ – The Agents truly knew their customers – they had a 121 relationship that endured, and was entirely personal.
  • Events and Triggers / CVI / NBA direct marketing activity –  The length of the relationship gave them insight, opportunity events were spotted easily; a new baby, a wedding meant the next best activity leapt out at the agent, through actual experience in the home, the Call to Action almost redundant as the Agent was driving the activity itself, 121.
  • Channel of choice and permissions – Contact was made through the channel of customer choice, typically at a time that was of the customers choosing and they were clearly giving permission to the Agent to engage and upsell by allowing them inside.
  • Contact rules – The database management of the day was a clear diary of review dates feeding off the relationship and insight.  This in turn fed into a retention strategy based around constant appropriate contact that demonstrated value to the customer eg personally handling claims.  In a Life Assurance sense the salesman would quite often be invited to the funerals of their clients, the relationship became that close.
  • Advocacy – Was at the core of growing the agents customer base .. the old exit question “would you introduce me to your neighbour” was true WoM 121 marketing, friends and family referrals a given – a simple way of growing both awareness and consideration
  • Engagement and CRM simply meant being friendly to, and with, your customers – the start point of every visit a simple conversation … and we are back to CRM and knowing your customer again.

I guess you would call this old school, but as you can see it is not unsophisticated or inappropriate today.  So, is this model no longer the mass market model because its marketing techniques were flawed ? or is it simply that where and how we carry out the same disciplines simply is reflective of broader changes in society.  I would argue the latter.

  • In 2012, with mass media consumption, growing awareness and consideration has remained a constant and over investing your share of voice will still increase your share of market, however the methodology has changed … broadcast media dominates and constantly evolves.  Think catch up TV and multi device vs B&W terrestrial TV on 1 commercial channel in 1957.  I’ll concede on this point – advertising has matured !
  • Database marketing – still uses transactional data and customer volunteered information to identify the triggers that were so easily spotted 121 in the home.  All we have done is embrace technology to carry out what we used to do 121. Marketing automation simply replacing the visit and diary.
  • Targeting the right customer with the right offer through their channel of choice is still the best way to grow scale, but now our channel of choice is broader – we can select from, among many; Phone, web, or indeed F2F still.  Costs for the supplier may restrict choice offered but the activity remains the same.  Interestingly the F2F in home service is now the premium service and frequently carries a charge or fees reflecting the cost to the supplier in time and length of visit.
  • Retention remains a factor of how engaged your customer is with the brand and how you have deepened that relationship since initial purchase, the channels may have changed but the fact remains that if a brand can upsell or recognise loyalty then the relationship will endure.  One of my own providers has now allocated a personal advisor to me for any claims based purely on my length of tenure … rewarding my loyalty clearly and using a personal touch reminiscent of the old school methods.
  • Conversations remain the best way of ensuring engagement with the brand and services already purchased … today we might have a conversation every day over Facebook or Twitter and never meet each other … it’s simply a  different way of speaking !

I think there is a lot to be said for old school marketing disciplines.  I plan to look at the “process of delivering marketing” to test my hypothesis that old school can still be valid in what it sets out to help with: ie grow the equity of the brand you are marketing, in a future blog.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if I dig out my old text books from 25+ years ago I will find much to inspire me anew and much that the youngest, shiniest faced, marketer in my team would instantly recognise too.  In fact I might just do that tonight !

If you have views please let me know by adding a comment or two ! It’s ok to disagree (nicely though!)

Paul

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One thought on “Old School Marketing

  1. Alan Meech says:

    I think one of the biggest issues as media & marketing have become more sophisticated and fragmented is that “we in our ivory towers” have lost sight of the customer in many ways – forgetting that we ourselves are customers. There’s a lot to be said for old school marketing – we had proper relationships then, and its something we need to build into the “sophisticated and fragmented” world we live in today

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