When “Push” Comes to “Pull” in Marketing

Push versus pull marketing.  "Push" has the upper hand now.
"Push" vs. "pull" marketing: Does "pull" have the upper hand now?
It’s clear that social media is delivering a wide range of interesting and beneficial online experiences for people. One that’s among the most highly valued is the ability to “vet” products, services and brands through reading reviews posted by “real people.”

According to a survey of ~3,330 consumers conducted in late 2011 by Deloitte’s Global Consumer Products Group, a large majority of consumers report that they rely on user reviews to guide their purchase decisions, rather than merely being influenced by brand advertising.

The Deloitte survey found that nearly two-thirds of consumers read consumer-written product reviews online. Of that group, 82% report that their purchase decisions have been directly influenced by these reviews – either confirming their decision to buy or causing them to switch to an alternative product or service.

Because of the perceived value of these consumer reviews, most people begin their search for information via a search engine query or by going to blogs, e-commerce sites such as Amazon that also feature consumer reviews, or review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.

By contrast, the incidence of people beginning their information quest at a company or brand website is far lower.

These dynamics are part of the reason why so many companies and brands are looking to increase their engagement with the online public. They’re particularly keen on ferreting out their natural allies – people who have a strong positive opinions about their brand – and turning them from armchair advocates into vocal cheerleaders.

For many marketers, this means going well-beyond collecting “likes” and similar “trophy counts.” They’re also continually monitoring comments in the social sphere concerning the quality of their products and customer service in order to make sure they deal with any issues or complaints expeditiously in order to minimize negative fallout in the “review” environment.

There’s also a powerful impulse for brands to offer “incentives” to customers in exchange for posting positive reviews. Those incentives can range from the small or innocuous – offering discount coupons or inexpensive product samples – all the way to incentives that seem more like bribes. (Here’s the latest example of this, courtesy of Honda.)

The keen attention companies are paying to social platforms reminds us that we’re in the midst of a migration away from traditional “push” marketing into a land of “pull” marketing.

There have always been “push” and “pull” aspects to marketing, advertising and PR, of course. But the balance of energy these days appears to be shifting quite sharply in the direction of “pull.”

There’s no reason to think that pattern will change anytime soon.

Online Display Ad Effectiveness: Skepticism Persists

Online Display AdvertisingAs the variety of options for online advertising have steadily increased over the years, the reputation of display advertising effectiveness has suffered. Part of this is in the statistics: abysmal clickthrough rates on many online display ads with percentages that trend toward the microscopic.

But another part is just plain intuition. People understand that when folks go online, they’re usually on a mission – whether it’s information-seeking, looking for products to purchase, or avocational pursuits.

Simply put, the “dynamic” is different than magazines, television or radio — although any advertiser will tell you that those media options also have their share of challenges in getting people to take notice and then to take action.

The perception that online display advertising is a “bad” investment when compared to search engine marketing is what’s given Google its stratospheric revenue growth and profits in recent years. And that makes sense; what better time to pop up on the screen than when someone has punched in a search term that relates to your product or service?

In the B-to-B field, the knock against display advertising is even stronger than in the consumer realm. In the business world, people have even less time or inclination to be distracted by advertising that could take them away from their mission at hand.

It doesn’t take a swath of eye-tracking studies to prove that most B-to-B practitioners have their blinders on to filter out extraneous “noise” when they’re in information-seeking mode.

This isn’t to say that B-to-B online display advertising isn’t occurring. In fact, in a new study titled Making Online Display Marketing Work for B2B, marketing research and consulting firm Forrester Research, Inc. reports that about seven in ten B-to-B interactive marketers employ online display advertising to some degree in their promotional programs.

And they do so for the same reasons that compelled these comparnies to advertise in print trade magazines in the past. According to the Forrester report, the primary objectives for online display advertising include:

 Increase brand awareness: ~49% of respondents
 Lead generation: ~46%
 Reaching key target audiences: ~46%
 Driving direct sales: ~41%

But here’s a major rub: Attitudes toward B-to-B online display advertising are pretty negative — and that definitely extends to the ad exchanges and ad networks serving the ads. Moreover, most don’t foresee any increased effectiveness in the coming years.

That may explain why Forrester found that fewer than 15% of the participants in its study reported that they have increased their online display advertising budgets in 2011 compared to 2010 – even as advertising budgets have trended upward overall.

When you look closer at display, there’s actually some interesting movement. Google has committed to a ~$390 million acquisition of display ad company Admeld. And regardless of the negative perceptions that may be out there, Google’s Ad Exchange and Yahoo’s Right Media platforms have created the ability for advertisers to bid on ad inventories based on their value to them.

Moreover, new capabilities make it easier to measure and attribute the impact of various media touchpoints — online display as well as others — that ultimately lead to conversion or sales.

But the negative perceptions about online display advertising continue, proving again that attitudes are hard to change — even in the quickly evolving world of digital advertising.