Today, writer Sarah Kliff posted a web exclusive to Newsweek.com titled Reverse Marketology. Throughout the article, Kliff references several branded campaigns which include more lifestyle info and helpful tips than actual sales messaging. Her take on the rationale behind the campaigns: “We’ve entered the age of the really counterintuitive ad…What they’re doing is banking on the idea that they can win customers with flattery and lots of helpful information.”
There are a couple things that seem a little off to me. First, I don’t think flattery plays much of a role in advertising today, and second, the [helpful information] + [product] = [customers] equation is more complex than the way it is being presented.
Boston University marketing professor C.B. Bhattacharya brings readers closer to the real goal with his take: “No one doubts the fact that they are doing whatever they do to make a profit for themselves…But if the consumer is able to say that they also have what is good for me in their mind, then that’s a big, big plus. Of course they want to make more money, but they also care about my well-being.”
Please note the progression of language being used to describe Reverse Marketology. Ad-focused Kliff speaks of “customers” and marketing-focused Bhattacharya speaks of “consumers.”
Who are the companies really trying to speak to? Not Customers and Not Consumers. These groups are trying to reach members of the Gen-Y audience, and reaching this audience is one thing that the Ad and Marketing departments can’t do on their own. They need talented PR people to speak to the audience and create Relationships.
Several articles report that Gen-Y audience members have low attention spans, and I will throw my two cents in there to say that we also have a low tolerance for straight sales messaging being tossed in our direction, but we love to be engaged and feel connected to the brands we support! Marketing helps to ensure that the right group is being targeted, and Advertising catches the group’s attention, but PR is what helps audience members make the connection.
So if we include a small dose of PR and the relationship element in Kliff’s equation, we will get the formula being used today:
[helpful information] + [product] + [PR] = Relationships = [LOYAL Gen-Y customers]