Marketers Talk About Targeting Nirvana

Achieving marketing nirvana takes a strategic shift in the way companies view their customers and how they make those customers experience their brands. During a panel presentation at Experian's Future of Information Summit 2006 in New York City on Thursday, a group of industry experts discussed "targeting nirvana," sharing their insights regarding the changing world of marketing and their predictions for the future. "Five years ago direct marketers still weren't talking about the customer. We talked about sales and margins. It was all about efficiency, getting the highest response rate at the lowest cost," said Cathy Clift, chief brand planning officer for Rapp Collins Worldwide. "No one was really interested in what was going on in the heads of people we were talking to. Today, they're still interested in efficiency, but also in effectiveness and building profitable longterm relationships. It's less about immediate response. This is progress." The biggest challenge is strategic. Companies need to redefine their customers based on their attitudes and behaviors, according to Kate Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for StarCom MediaVest Group. They also must be able to view those customers in terms of how they receive information about the category in which that business plays. Determining what stage of the relationship those consumer are in with the organization and how close they are to another purchase decision proves to be extremely important when figuring out when and how to target, the panelists added. Mass audiences no longer exist, but most creative agencies have not cracked the code of how to talk to consumers in this new marketing world, said Bruce Goerlich, executive vice president and director of strategic resources for ZenithOptimedia, USA. "Fundamentally, advertising is about telling stories." The stories have shifted to be more like the old days, when village storytellers would alter their tales to incorporate listeners' questions and comments. "Consumers have the power to have a dialogue with us," he said. They also have the power to shift the way marketers present their brands. Clift predicts that today's concept of advertising soon will be viewed as "quaint and obsolete" as the power of brand image erodes and creativity shifts focus to showing consumers how the brand will make them feel. Some forms of advertising are here to stay, but marketers know that consumers want to receive messages and even enjoy advertising if it's relevant to them, according to the panelists. "The 30-second commercial won't disappear off the face of the earth, but what is said is important," Goerlich said. "There's still the desire for the average person to take their brain out and put it in a bowl at the end of the day. That's what I call television watching--the desire to be entertained." Related articles: Direct Marketing Trends for 2006
More companies are turning to the Web for targeted marketing efforts. How to Make the Shift to Customer-Centric Marketing A road map for the evolution your company will experience. The Three Rs at DMA Days Keynotes detail the importance of relevancy, responsibility, and results--all ways for direct marketers to win customer confidence and build trust.
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