Modern marketers are well aware of the reality that the days when the best product at the best price won the customer are long gone. Today, marketing is as much about providing the right service or product as it is about creating a connection with customers.
An overview of the companies with the most successful marketing campaigns will show a similar theme: those companies don’t exclusively highlight the product, they cultivate an image that supports and engages the lifestyle of those within their target audience.
Thus, one of the challenges associated with the age of lifestyle marketing is the heavy importance placed on connecting on an emotional — and at times even personal — level with customers. How can you accomplish that, without also manipulating your target audience? How do you ensure you’re relating to them, without exploiting what your market research has revealed?
You do it by asking three thoughtful questions and letting the answers guide your decisions.
1. Is it essential information?
When it comes to conveying information to your target audience, what you really need to decide is what information is necessary for them to make a well-informed decision. Virtually every piece of research done on the topic demonstrates that customer retention is far more cost-effective and beneficial overall for a business than that of customer acquisition.
According to the Harvard Business Review acquisition is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more costly than retention. Additionally, research by Bain and Company says bolstering customer retention by just 5 percent yields profit increases from 25 to 95 percent.
Why the refresher on how valuable customer retention is?
Because if customers purchase your product and don’t get what they thought they were getting, you’ll lose them and along with them you’ll lose untold amounts of profit. Part of the job of the marketer is certainly convincing customers to buy, but it’s important that the marketing efforts of your organization are also straightforward, and include needed information.
A blaring example of how to lose consumer trust can be seen in government industries. Pew Research Center found that Americans’ trust in the government is at an all time low. And one the primary reasons is that essential information isn’t disclosed. Asset tracking experts put government spending waste in the billions.
It’s unlikely you’ll find a better demonstration within the business world that individuals are put off by than organizations not doing what they say they’re going to do, and even more so, not being straight with them when they fail to do it.
2. Is it well-intentioned?
One of the best ways to gauge whether or not marketing efforts are manipulative is to consider why they’re made in the first place. In the majority of cases, the end doesn’t justify the means. Instead, the hoped-for target audience reaction to the campaign is likely a telling indicator of whether or not the driving force behind it is respectable.
Marketers have always benefited from telling the truth and from highlighting how their company benefits its home community. But today, it’s not just a best practice, it’s a requirement for success.
According to the business experts at Rutgers University, “The way that companies measure success has shifted. The triple bottom line necessitates organizations to prepare three different bottom lines, which include corporate profit, social responsibility, and environmental responsibility. In addition to thriving in competitive markets and profiting financially, companies are including their social and environmental impact in their full cost of doing business.”
Millennials currently have $200 billion in spending power — more than any other generation — but they are driven to buy in a way unlike any previous generation.
“Millennials want their purchases to make them feel good. We found that 60% of millennials tend to gravitate toward purchases that are an expression of their personality -- the brand must speak to them at this level and make them feel good… The model needs to be reframed not with loyalty as a conclusion, but with the goal of giving the consumer a reason to connect and return,” writes Angela Woo for Forbes.
A huge part of your target audience is likely interested and invested in the image of your company. It matters that businesses are socially aware and that they market themselves in a way that sheds light on that fact.
According to social media marketing expert Clay Beyersdorfer, “A fundamental failure to recognize that the economy and consumer behaviors are changing is ultimately what will fail these businesses who don’t market properly.”
In other words, for the majority of businesses, understanding the importance of this can be the difference between success or failure.
3. Is it true?
Advertising certainly does not have the best of reputations when it comes to being straightforward. In an effort to assert the fact that a product is better than a competitor’s product, marketers are at times tempted to portray their product as better than any product.
For example, Airborne claimed to boost the health of one’s immune system and keep colds at bay. However, Airborne had to pay $23.3 million in a class-action lawsuit because they didn’t have any evidence to back that claim up. Additionally, there’s a trend within cosmetic companies wherein overly airbrushed models are used in an attempt to convince consumers that perfection is just a purchase away.
Those examples are just a couple within a long history of marketers using their campaigns to blatantly lie to consumers. Again, it’s easy to understand the temptation. Marketers are tasked with the job of communicating in the right things in the right way so that their target audience becomes their customer base, and that’s challenging.
But, when an idealized version of the truth is pushed, marketers venture into dangerous waters. The immediate pay off may be enticing, but that tactic will never produce long-term conversions. As soon as customers get a whiff of inauthenticity, they’ll be gone the second they hit send on their negative review.
In a lot of ways, the era of lifestyle marketing has opened the door for grey areas that marketing departments didn’t previously have to worry about. The need for engaging content that manages to hit the mark in terms of identity and relationship with consumers inevitably means that the topic matter is going to be all the riskier.
However, when companies take the time to formulate an approach to their campaigns that effectively filters out manipulative content, they’ll be on the fast track to reaping the rewards. Smart, well-intentioned content marketing has demonstrated time and time again it’s second-to-none in its value.
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