The trouble with marketing...

Personally I think that traditional marketing techniques, such as a direct mail, are getting well past their sell-by date. It probably happened for me about 15 years ago, but I know for others it varies.

I was amused this morning to receive some direct mail from my favourite coffee company. Aside from anything else it contained a fairly well disguised and weak promotion: free shipping for larger orders (they already offer half-price). Certainly not enough to tempt me off the sofa.

But more noteworthy was the fact they had obvisously gone to some lengths to profile me and figure out the pattern of my recent orders, and come back at me with an attempt to change that behaviour (i.e. spend more). You see, what's happened, is I've been ordering a lot of decaff. Mainly decaff in fact.

So, some bright spark has come up with a database query to spot this and created a campaign to tempt me back into ordering all the other coffees they have. Nice campaign it is too - lots of plush brochureware and a well-thought-out approach to explaining and grouping all their coffee blends and flavours and so on. Almost good enough to lick.

It's all very admirable, all very expensive, all very nicely done and I'm sure there has been much back-patting over how cleverly targetted this campaign is - as if it's just for me, the decaffoholic.

But the problem is, it won't change a thing about my behaviour: it won't achieve its objective or call to action. So why on earth not?

Because they haven't asked me why I'm ordering decaff all the time. They haven't understood my motivation and needs. They haven't understood why I'm going to keep doing the same thing regardless.

And that's the problem with these traditional marketing approaches: there's no feedback loop. Marketers tend to observe a consumer behaviour pattern (to a greater or lesser degree of granularity, refinement and sophistication) and make some assumptions about what's going on and how to change it.

Get that assumption wrong and you've wasted your time and effort. It never ceases to amaze me the time, effort and cost organisations plough into this type of marketing with such little return and reward. Not to mention the carbon footprint. It's so easy now to engage with most consumers, it ought to be the mainstream approach and yet we are still in an age where the organisations that engage more intimately with consumers (over, for example, social media channels) are still heralded as trailblazers and innovators.

Barely a day goes by without my twitter stream being inundated of reports from "social media conferences" reporting the latest exciting trends and ingenius developments in social marketing and branding. And yet in reality, this is schoolboy stuff - this pares down to long-established simple concepts, such as good customer experience, meeting the customer where they're at, engagement on appropriate channels.

What the new tools and new-connected-world order offers marketers is the chance to engage one-on-one with their customers and, for the first time, to properly listen - i.e. complete the feedback loop. Have conversation, not broadcast. And yet so few organsiations seemed to have grasped these basic ideas that the social media industry feels compelled to slap the backs of those that have and do "get it". What they (and we as consumers) should be doing is kicking the backsides of those that don't! 

Instead, I'll be making one extra trip to the recycling centre and ordering my decaff as usual.