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Value of Message is Key for Consumers

Value of Message is Key for Consumers Alan Chapell

Last week, the Ponemon Institute released the 2005 Online Consumer Permissions Study. The study represents a step forward in our collective understanding of permissions management. It also makes a strong case for equating responsible privacy practices to smart marketing policies.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty familiar with Larry Ponemon’s work. I’m a research fellow on the Ponemon RIM council, which helped put together the questions for this study, and I conducted a similar study of consumer perceptions last year with Larry and Revenue Science.There’s some great information to be culled from this study, and I encourage everyone to download the study on the site of its sponsor, Dotomi. Here are some of my thoughts:

Consumers mean it when they opt-out of your marketing programs… sort of -- According to the study, most consumers wouldn’t mind being contacted by an online merchant -- even after they’ve specifically opted out of the merchants’ marketing programs. In fact, nearly all (92 percent) of the respondents indicated a willingness to receive post opt-out marketing messages “If the new product or promotion would be of great value to me based on my past purchasing habits.” The net/net of that statement is that consumers are overwhelmingly accepting of marketing messages that are relevant to their interests, and are looking for marketers to use their data intelligently to increase relevance. Consumers don’t mind getting marketing messages, but they don’t want to be deluged by them.

Personalized messaging is not necessarily the same thing as relevant messaging --The Ponemon study notes that understanding customer interests is a far better way for a marketer to demonstrate that they value a customer’s business than simply sending personalized messages. In fact, over twice as many respondents indicated that understanding interests (56 percent) is a key way for companies to demonstrate that they value a customer’s business. Only 25 percent of respondents felt the same way about personalization. Permission marketers are wise to take this lesson to heart.

The email marketing space is rife with examples. Email marketers like to pull a customer name and some basic preference data from their database, and use that to personalize a message to the email recipient. While I certainly don’t think that’s a bad thing, the real trick is to take personalization to a much higher level. Using data to send me the red banner instead of the blue banner is nice. Using data to help you understand that I’d be interested in the new Flaming Lips album is better.

The consumer really does want control of this relationship -- Eighty-four percent of respondents indicated that having direct control over the types and frequency of Internet ads sent by online merchants would be preferred. Over half (56 percent) indicated that the ability to exercise control is a way for Web merchants to demonstrate that they value the consumer’s business. I strongly believe that in the not so distant future, smart marketers will provide a preferences page for their customers -- similar in nature to many email preference pages that you see today. The new preference pages will offer consumers a much greater degree of choice regarding how often they receive marketing and other outreach messages. Moreover, consumers will be offered a choice regarding which channels they’d prefer that the marketer use. Perhaps the customer would rather be contacted via text message, email, RSS, TiVo, phone,  postal mail, or via something else that comes down the pike in the next year or two. Part of the problem today is that there are too many messages trying to get through too many pipelines. Companies that are able to offer a simple way for their customers to exercise control of the preference marketing process will be in a good position.

Consumers worry less about their privacy when they feel there’s a value exchange -- Let’s face it, folks. Consumers tend to be a fickle lot. They want the power of the SUV, but they don’t want to pay for the gas. They want the $250 million infielder, but they don’t want to pay $9 for the stadium hot dog. And they want to receive ads that are relevant to them, but they are skittish about having their behaviors tracked across the Web.

According to the Ponemon Study, only 20 percent (the lowest number) would let a marketer share information in order to track their buying behavior and project future buying decisions. Conversely, many more (71 percent) of respondents would be willing to let that same marketer share information if that helps to better understand what they as customers want. And nearly all (89 percent) respondents would be willing to let that marketer share their data if it would improve the quality of the products or services the consumer would receive.

Why are consumers unwilling to have their buying habits shared, but willing to allow marketers to share their preference data? My sense is that consumers are generally more willing to share their data if they believe that a marketer will use that data to directly benefit them. If they are certain that a marketer can be trusted to handle their data with care, AND to use that data to benefit them in some way, consumers will be much more willing to share that data. Having said that, I think this is an area that definitely merits some additional research.

Do you have any thoughts on this research or my analysis? Feel free to send me an email.

Alan Chapell is a consultant focusing on Privacy-Marketing -- helping companies understand privacy and incorporate consumer perception into product development. He has been in the interactive space for more than seven years with firms such as Jupiter Research, DoubleClick and Cheetahmail. Mr. Chapell is the New York Chapter Chairman of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, and he publishes a daily blog on issues of consumer privacy.


Be emotionally satisfying

Reinventing an old-fashioned brand for the Millennial market requires understanding both the rational and emotional need states that the product or service satisfies as well as how those need states evolve over time. While rational needs rarely change, consumers' emotional needs do evolve to take on new meaning. As such, old-fashioned brands need to put in the effort to understand current consumers' emotional needs (i.e. how they want to feel) and then help them feel that way every day.

Key principles

FOMO, or the "fear of missing out," has always affected young people; it's rooted in human anxiety about not being included in the group. However, the rise of smartphone technology and social media sites like Facebook have heightened Millennials' fear by providing them constant access to updates on what their network of peers is doing, who they are with, and, ultimately, what they are missing out on. Think of the teenager who is constantly using their iPod to check their Facebook news feed or the college student who sleeps with their mobile phone under their pillow…just in case. There's no doubt that Millennials today are in "a FOMO state of mind, and it isn't pretty," as JWT Intelligence reports.

Seeing it in action

Heineken is a great example of an older brand that has invested the time and energy to understand the emotional needs of its target audience, tapping into FOMO for its 2011 global marketing campaign. The "Sunrise" campaign includes an 85-second video of a man drinking responsibly at a Heineken-sponsored party. As a result, he is able to party until morning, eventually leaving to enjoy the sunrise with an attractive woman he's met at the club (celebrity DJ Audrey Napoleon).

5 old brands that won over Millennials

A Twitter component encourages Millennial participation by inviting other all-night party animals to "Tweet your sunrise and celebrate with the world." The message from the Heineken brand is smart and simple: A few beers lead to a good time, but overindulging increases your risk of having to leave the festivities…and missing out on an epic occurrence.

Not all brands are quite as successful as Heineken at interpreting consumers' emotional need states. In 2011, the Snapple Group launched Dr. Pepper Ten, a new diet soda targeted at male Millennials. The company chose the tagline, "It's not for women," after research found that "men shy away from diet drinks that aren't perceived as 'manly' enough," as stated in USA Today.

5 old brands that won over Millennials

The commercial spots featured aggressive, action-movie like men racing through the jungle battling snakes, shooting lasers, and drinking cans of the new diet beverage. The campaign was meant to poke fun at stereotypical gender norms through the use of comedy. Only male Millennials did not feel a need to be distanced from everything containing the word "diet;" they were found to be quite comfortable with more fluid definitions of gender and sexuality. If Snapple had only invested the time and energy to understand the nuances of gender definition, this snafu could have been avoided.

Things to keep in mind

In order to create an emotional connection between an old-fashioned brand and the Millennial cohort, brands need to understand exactly how Millennials want to feel in the first place. What are their dreams and, equally as important, what keeps them up at night? Millennials' heartstrings are the key to success for old-fashioned brands looking to reinvent themselves.

Share your brand's heritage story

To borrow from Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst at The NPD Group, "it's very easy to allow an iconic brand to remain true to its heritage and at the same time obsolete itself." Brand heritage, in and of itself, is not enough to make an iconic or old-fashioned brand successful in the long-term. After all, do you like a brand because it's old or because you trust that brand to deliver on its promise?

Key principles

Brand heritage can be an effective storytelling device for old-fashioned brands looking to become relevant with Millennial consumers, according to the "Brand Heritage Guide." The fact that a brand has a heritage story to share provides reason to believe in the authenticity of the brand and the quality of the products and/or services it sells. After all, how could the brand have survived if that was not the case? Amidst an environment of economic uncertainty, Millennials want "to trust what they are spending their money on and enjoy the comfort and validation [that the brand's story of] heritage provides."

Seeing it in action

Burberry has done a great job utilizing its heritage as storytelling device in order to build trust with Millennial consumers. In 2009, the 157-year-old brand launched "Art of the Trench," a photo-sharing website dedicated to images (past and present) of people wearing the brand's signature trench coat.

5 old brands that won over Millennials

The site included images from professional fashion photographers as well as images from fashion blogger, Scott Schuman, also known as "The Sartorialist." In addition, Burberry invited consumers to submit their own photos and select their favorite photos posted by others. This digital activation by Burberry provided Millennials with a reason to believe its products were worth the extra cost, even during an economic recession when money was tight. The brand was clearly experienced when it came to designing and making quality trench coats that last.

Not all heritage brands share their story in as straight-forward a manner as Burberry. Microsoft's recent advertisement for Internet Explorer, "Child of the 90s," is an example of a heritage brand that relies on nostalgia as storytelling device to earn Millennials' trust.

5 old brands that won over Millennials

So why does showcasing popular products from the 1990s such as Pogs and the Oregon Trail computer game work? The answer is that the advertisement reminds Millennials of memories from their childhood; a time in the past when life was much simpler and much more manageable. Instead of fretting about getting a job or making a rent payment, Millennials could enjoy playing with friends. The message of the advertisement is simple and effective; both Millennials and Internet Explorer are children of the 1990s and, as such, they should instill trust in one another.

Things to keep in mind

Overall, heritage, in and of itself, is not enough to make an old-fashioned brand relevant; it's only when heritage and/or nostalgia are used as an authentic storytelling device that they have the power to make a brand current.

Embrace adaptation

Millennials are smart when it comes to marketing and advertising. They know that they are an attractive target for brands and have learned how to navigate the barrage of messages flying at them. If they aren't entertaining or emotionally-relevant, they ignore them. Thus, for old-fashioned brands reliant on the Millennial market for future growth, adaptation of the brand and marketing approach is crucial. This generation's attitudes and behaviors are much different than those of generations past.

Key principles

A study of 4,000 Millennials by Edelman Berman confirms that 80 percent of Millennials like to be entertained by advertising -- that is, as long as the brand is current and the offering is appealing or relevant. There is no use creating an entertaining advertisement for an old and stodgy brand that is averse to change. 

Seeing it in action

Old Spice is the best known (and most talked about) example of an old-fashioned brand that has effectively reinvented itself for a younger audience…and with good reason. Repositioning longevity as a core strength (as opposed to a weakness) gave the brand more freedom to be creative in its advertising tactics and messaging. Whereas the brand's previous advertising featured a whistling sailor and was a bit stale, its new ads feature a confident, comedic brand character known as the "Old Spice Man."

5 old brands that won over Millennials

The shift in positioning and development of entertaining content helped the brand become the leading deodorant and antiperspirant brand for men in the U.S.

Intel's "The Museum of Me" is another great example of entertaining online content on behalf of a brand looking to connect people through their digital lives.

5 old brands that won over Millennials

The site allows users to create a virtual hall of memories by visualizing Facebook elements such as friends, photos, and "likes." Instead of pushing messaging about its new core processor onto uninterested persons, Intel created a brand experience that demonstrated the product's benefit while providing entertainment to those who gave the site a try. "The Museum of Me" was a huge success, resulting in more than 540,000 "likes," 790,000 shares, and 130,000 impressions on Facebook.

Things to keep in mind

Creating entertaining advertisements and online content is not always enough, although it's a good start. In order for old-fashioned brands to get noticed, they have to create compelling content and think about the context in which that content is being consumed.

Putting it all together

 All brands have to evolve to survive and, for many, the Millennial market promises the greatest opportunity for future growth. Here's a synopsis of the top three ways to become relevant with an audience that will undoubtedly impact your business:

  • Provoke their innermost emotions: Find out how Millennials want to feel and make them feel that way every day.

  • Don't be afraid of being "old": Being "old," and having a heritage, means that you're more experienced than other brands. As such, consumers are more likely to trust you. Embrace your age. Share it. Be proud of it.

  • Stop talking, start listening, and get inspired: In order to be appealing and relevant to a younger target market, you need to spend time listening to their needs and doing your best to provide solutions. In need of entertaining content? No problem.

By focusing on these three ways of reinventing your brand for a Millennial audience, you will be setting yourself up for long-term success. After all, it's makeover or move over. No exceptions.

Ayanna Mancuso is a brand planner at AMP Agency.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Beautiful woman with many shopping bags" image via Shutterstock.

Chapell & Associates is headed by Alan Chapell. In 1997, Chapell founded the privacy program at Jupiter Research, an internet research firm focusing on the consumer internet economy. During his four and a half years at Jupiter, Chapell also...

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