Reality & Fear: The Marketing Trend for the New Year, part 1

2009 will, for marketers, be the year of reality.  We got a sneak peak at the end of 2008.  How many companies placed lines like these in ads:

“In times like these, you can get a great deal”
“While others are limiting credit, we’re still offering financing to people like you”
“Now is more important than ever to spend your money wisely, so visit our show room for the very best bargains”…

These messages kind-of hinted that things on the outside weren’t so hot.  But, it didn’t speak to any of us specifically.

These loose-end statements will sharpen this year.  As the giant fish that is our economy flaps breathlessly on dry dock, customer information will again rise in value.  The good news is that the information will get better.  Customers will wander less, and focus more.  And because dollars aren’t flying in all directions, we’ll get a better picture of what the customer looks like.  Plus, companies, instead of spending to find new customers, will look more diligently at their past receipts for customer information useful in sparking growth via repeat or second purchases.

The second contribution to this trend is that – again, since the money won’t be flying about – creative ventures will slow.  “Inventing” the scene takes a lot of resources in a marketing campaign.  Look at chewing gum.  This is certainly a luxury product – a want, not a need, and easily done without.  The last time the economy was slow, Trident gum went with the reality approach, something like, “Trident helps prevent cavities and makes your breath less awful when you chew it after meals.”  The reality message: We know you eat lunch, so here is a long and a short term reason to chew some Trident before going back to the office.  Look at  “money flowing” era gum commercials: people are jumping into pools, ballroom dancing, putting out fires, hiding in dark rooms – basically anything “conceptual” but not remotely “real” to the act of chewing gum.

So, before our fish gets kicked back into the sea, what should we expect to see this year?  How about those struggling car companies?  Direct campaigns aimed at previous buyers should be forefront.  Imagine you bought a new Chevy Impala back in 2001.  Here we are eight years later.  You get this in the mail:

Dear Jane,

You’ve probably put a lot of miles on your Impala since it was new.  Do you remember the feeling you had when you drove off the lot that day?  That feeling of pride and excitement as you inhaled that new-car scent?  The anticipation of learning what each little button did – the sunroof slide toggle, the multiple disk CD changer, the cruise control…

At Chevy, we’ve taken the best features from the forest green Impala you’re driving today, and added even more to our new ’09 model.  More room for added comfort on long drives, better performance and control for overtaking that big rig or driving in poor weather, and more little buttons for all new amenities like OnStar service, satellite radio, and advanced temperature controls – it’s all included.

And if you drive your family or friends, take comfort in knowing that the new Impala is one of the safest cars on the road, with airbag systems and traction control features that weren’t available on your previous Impala.

You may be worried about financing, but as a returning customer, Chevy can offer you preferred options to ensure you can continue to take pride in being an Impala owner – something Ford, Toyota, or anyone else can’t do.

Please contact me when you get a chance so I know this message reached you and so we can arrange a time for all of your questions to be answered.

Sincerely,

Joe, Local Chevy Sales Manager

OK, so it’s not the best letter, but hey, I don’t work for Chevy or any other car company!  What my example does show are two important factors about the point I’m making: One – we know something about YOU (the car you bought and with what options, plus your name and address); and Two – we’re offering a “real” experience as our selling point (the feeling of driving a new car that does real things – plays satellite radio, provides safety, can be made affordable; as apposed to making you a secret agent).

There it is.  Reality – the first marketing trend for 2009.  I’ll discuss fear next time.