On Day One of the Direct Marketing Association India (DMAi) Convention 2012, Luisa Mazinter, chief executive officer, themarketingsite.com, spoke about the importance of generating customer conversations. Brand marketers in the audience found the session very useful.
According to Mazinter, the days of 'mass communication' are over and done with. "The 'mass market' has vanished. The power has now shifted into the hands of the individual consumer," she said.
Today, consumers are in a state of what she calls 'continuous partial attention'. This is because consumers these days are faced with an overload of information coming in from all directions. As so many brand messages compete to gain consumers' attention all the time, it has become that much harder for marketers to get through to their target audience.
From a consumer perspective, Mazinter calls this overloaded state of mind 'the state of ADD-IG (Attention Deficit Disorder and Instant Gratification)'. This state is akin to living near a railway station, where, with time, the constant buzz of the trains stops affecting residents in the area. Explaining the analogy, Mazinter says, "Consumers have begun to treat encroaching advertising the way people living near train lines treat the constant background noise - they stop hearing it after a while."
Given such high saturation of marketing messages, what is the solution? "Marketers must speak directly to individual consumers through targeted marketing messages," Mazinter advised, stating that this is the best way marketers can avoid the phenomenon of 'marketing resistance', a situation in which consumers tend to block out all incoming brand and advertising messages.
With this as the background, she then went on to speak about digital technology and its all-pervasive presence in consumers' lives. Currently, there are 2.6 billion people in the world who are online (part of the digital world in some way) and a large part of this figure comes from the developing world. Between 2001 and 2011, there were six billion mobile subscriptions (active SIM cards, including those in human hands as well as inside machines/gadgets) in the world, a bulk of which belonged to the developing world.
"Thirty per cent of the world's mobile users," Mazinter said, "live in India and China." What does this mean for marketers? "Customers have in their pockets a powerful tool that should be tapped into and leveraged by marketers," she said.
She then moved on to stressing on a particular segment of people that comprise an integral part of today's consumer pool - children and youngsters. In demographic terms, she was referring to those in the 11-30 years age bracket. This segment of the population is economically active, digitally enabled and has great expectations from the world around them. Mazinter put it across rather well - "this segment of consumers was born with 'Digital DNA'," she remarked.
Today's marketers ought to be mindful of the fact that children and youngsters nowadays are "digital natives" and that in order to remain relevant to them, it is crucial to "stop talking 'at' them, and instead, engage 'with' them." Also, the digital prowess of this segment makes post-purchase behaviour of brands and marketers as important as the pre-purchase messaging. This is because these consumers are quick to go online and share their opinions about their experiences with brands. With the right kind of post-purchase marketing messages, marketers can turn these youngsters into loyal brand advocates in the digital world.
She ended by sharing a heart-warming South African case study of a brand that targeted a very niche segment of consumers in a very simple way: Fast food restaurant Wimpy used sesame seeds to write a few fun, descriptive sentences on their burgers in Braille (something to the tune of 'We're happy to have made this lovely, fresh beef burger for you today'). Fifteen such burgers were then served to visually impaired individuals, who were thrilled to read the messages. They then went online and shared their experiences with their friends.
In all, around 8,00,000 (eight lakh) sight-disabled people received the message. Clearly, dialogue trumps sponsorship.
"Marketers need to personalise the marketing messages, focus on telling stories, need to create a sense of belonging, generate a powerful emotional connect with people and create a platform for advocacy," concluded Mazinter.