Monday, September 19, 2011

Marketers Not Aligned With Consumer Marketing Channel Preferences

Technology is rapidly changing the way consumers interact. We wake up each day to a barrage of messages coming from both traditional and new media. We check our Facebook posts and text messages at the same time we watch television, read the newspaper, listen to the radio or conduct work online. 

Marketers have long recognized the shifts in media consumption that are redefining how customers absorb information and offers. However, recent studies indicate that marketers may not be in total alignment with consumers as to how the new media is consumed and their degree of reliance on various media for making buying decisions.

A new research study by Acxiom entitled, Tug of Love: The Changing Relationship Between Consumers and Brands found that more than four in five people (82%) believed they were in control of the relationship between themselves and their brands (with 'control' being defined as receiving the information they desire, when and through the media they want). This was more than 50% higher than marketers thought, indicating that 'push' broadcast marketing is quickly being replaced with 'pull' marketing where the individual is in charge of message consumption.

Interestingly, the perception of having the ability to filter messages that were either inappropriate or not of personal interest increased with age, possibly due to less messages being sent using electronic channels and due to improved targeting available for older households. Older households also benefit from having longer relationships with their brands, resulting in less bombardment of messages occurring.

Despite feeling in control, however, one in four households still say they receive 'inappropriate' marketing communications, while marketers feel they do a better job of targeting. Even with this ability to screen messages, only 27% of consumers believed their brands understood them or communicated with them appropriately. The good news is that some of the best numbers were recorded for financial services communications, even though less than half believed they were understood and communicated with well.

One of the most surprising findings in this study and in a recently published study from the European Journal of Marketing entitled, Comparing Perceptions of Marketing Communications Channels (Vol. 45, No. 1/2, 2011, pp 6-43), was that although email is well established and widely used by marketers, the traditional channels of television, radio, newspapers and to a significantly greater degree, direct mail retain historically favored attributes of trust and reliability. Conversely, some of the newer media such as SMS and mobile received much lower rankings than marketers believed they would, making these channels less powerful or accepted by consumers of any age category. In fact, direct mail was reported by both customer and prospect groups in both studies as being in the top two marketing channels preferred next to email.

In the Acxiom study, 71% of current customers cited direct mail as an appropriate way of reaching them, with 57% of prospects preferring direct mail. These acceptance ratings were far above what marketers thought who were asked the same question. Only 35% of marketers thought prospects would welcome direct mail. They were much closer with customer perception, noting that they believed 75% would be positive about direct mail. Email acceptance was 77% for customers and only 52% for prospects, still significantly higher than other newer media. In fact, only 12% of consumers felt mobile advertising was appropriate, with the figure for SMS being only 9%. As could be surmised, marketers believed the acceptance rate on these media options would be much higher. Despite the industry focus on and massive growth of interactions through social media, only 4% of consumers wanted to be reached using these channels.

Customer Acceptance of Alternative Marketing Channels (Acxiom, 2011)

Prospect Acceptance of Alternative Marketing Channels (Acxiom, 2011)

The European Journal of Marketing study dug deeper into the perceived attributes of the different media channels as determined by both the sender and recipient. As could be expected, channels that were considered annoying or irritating included SMS, phone, door-to-door and email. Consumers found direct mail to have the qualities of being informative, reliable and trustworthy, while they found most mass marketing to be informative and enjoyable.

Perceptual Mapping of Marketing Channel Attributes - Recipient (European Journal of Marketing, 2011)

'Senders' as defined by the study had a pretty close correlation with recipients regarding most marketing channels except they viewed email in a significantly more favorable light than consumers. Part of this bias may be caused by the lack of measurement between the stages of clicks and consumption of the email opened. The chart below illustrates the perception of the senders of marketing messages on the same dimensions as the above graph.

Perceptual Mapping of Marketing Channel Attributes - Sender (European Journal of Marketing, 2011)

Regression analysis found, not surprisingly, that a marketing offer is more likely to be successful if the recipient regards the information as important. In addition, higher involvement with the product or service is also more likely to result in greater engagement. Finally, it was found that receivers are more likely to be persuaded by the marketing offer in a particular channel if they find communications in that channel to be enjoyable and entertaining, and if the channel that has a reputation for reliable information. Again, this illustrates why some traditional channels such as direct mail and, to a lesser degree, email continue to perform well.

While the Acxiom study was conducted in Europe and the European Journal of Marketing Study was conducted in Australia may impact the specific numbers, but most likely dramatically change the trends found. Both of these studies and a recent white paper published by The Winterberry Group entitled, The Multichannel Revolution: New Media, New Approaches, New Opportunities also emphasized that no single channel strategy will be enough in today's multichannel world. Instead, marketers need to develop a long‐term, audience‐driven multichannel strategy, gaining insight into customer attributes, demand drivers and response cues that are the key to optimal budget allocation.

Finding that right balance of media (and having the courage to respond quickly to its changing dynamics) will
prove essential to growth in tomorrow’s competitive marketplace.

I would like to hear from you. How is your bank's media mix changing as you plan for 2012 to reflect changing media consumption patterns, shrinking budgets and greater emphasis on ROI?


  1. Thanks for your post, Jim. I'm not in the banking industry but find this topic of great interest.

    I've downloaded the reports and will be looking specifically at how the data spreads out across age brackets. I doubt I'm the only person who's heard twenty- and thirty-somethings say that they "aren't affected" by the major media, especially TV (I can more easily believe that's the case with print, however), suggesting that if your communication isn't digital, it's not effective.

    In my opinion, the challenge with digital is that the format makes it very difficult to construct messages that are entertaining. It's a lot like outdoor in that respect - you get about seven seconds to impart your message, and that's it; your prospect has scrolled down the page or clicked through to another page. Unfortunately, much of today's digital work is uninspired (but that's another topic).

    The work for marketers is, indeed, tougher now with so many media to consider in the mix. And while the digital world may be easier to track, how can one be sure it wasn't a print, direct mail, TV, radio or outdoor board that got the prospect to the brand's website to begin with, or made the brand worth looking into when they saw one of their ads online?

  2. Jim, great article and thanks for spotting this research. We’re also pretty excited about banking customer communications so we commissioned our own research and also found that multichannel communication is important. However, we found that UK banks aren’t yet doing enough and that 49% of UK customers said that their bank doesn’t appear to know them at all from its communications. The opportunity for UK marketers is to use communications channels in more personal ways.

    As you’ve blogged about in the past, this will need much better multichannel onboarding . If you’re interested in our UK and US research the report is at

    Thanks - John McGee, Thunderhead