Are consumers turned off by conventional marketing?

28th July 2010

The recession might be over but marketers are still cautious when it comes to spending their budgets, recent research has shown.

The latest Bellwether report, which was released in June, revealed that many marketing budgets were revised downwards in the second quarter of this year. In fact, 20 per cent of marketers said they had decreased their spending, compared to 15 per cent who noted an increase. Uncertainty about the economy and their company's future were listed as key reasons why budgets are falling.

Although budgets have decreased, consumers are becoming more responsive to marketing, according to the latest Marketing Channel Trends Report from the British Marketing Survey. Yet, the number of channels which they respond to continues to decrease.

Mike Hare, research director at the British Marketing Survey, said: "The interesting thing is that this fall in the number of channels responded to is against the backdrop of a rise in the number of channels received.

"This further reinforces the fact that marketers need to be very careful not to use the wrong channel to communicate with consumers. Not only does it waste marketing budget but it also risks alienating customers and potential customers."

Marketers are now under increased pressure to ensure their smaller budgets are spent on the platforms which will draw the best return on investment.

With conventional marketing often costing more than its digital or alternative counterparts, companies have been left weighing up which medium consumers prefer.

In recent years, there have been suggestions that many consumers are turned off by traditional marketing.

Over the 12 months, many firms have been investing heavily in digital marketing, with the search marketing sector showing growth of ten per cent over the period, according to Efficient Frontier, while mobile marketing also continues to increase in popularity.

In fact, an industry round table in April suggested that more businesses are concentrating on digital marketing at the expense of marketing's core principles.

Karin von Abrams, senior analyst at eMarketer, said: "The web is definitely taking on a central role in marketing activity for virtually all brands."

But, rather than exclude traditional marketing activities from the mix, companies should use both digital and conventional marketing in tandem.

Kevin Dendy, commercial director at marketing and communications trade body the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), suggested that digital marketing is more effective when it is used in conjunction with more established marketing methods.

"It's all about being fully integrated. I wouldn't say that one channel is better than the others – you still have to keep an integrated approach to campaigns."

Another industry commentator added: "Consumers are not necessarily turned off by traditional marketing, but they are certainly becoming more immune to the straight forward push advertising where an advert simply says 'buy our blue widget'."

Experiential activities can also add value to a company's marketing plans, according to Euro RSCG KLP business director Andrew Dougan. But, speaking to Utalkmarketing.com, Mr Dougan advised that simply engaging consumers at an event is not enough.

He recommended that marketers use ancillary campaigns to boost the reach of their marketing material and ensure that consumers are fully engaged.

This is something many brands have been able to do successfully, particularly at festivals and events.

Paul Harris, marketing director of UKFast, said: "Standards have been raised and marketers need to respond throughout the business. Just bolting on a social media strategy isn't enough. A holistic approach is required."

When deciding what marketing platforms to use, firms should choose them on the basis of the consumers they are looking to attract because some will appeal to certain people more than others, Sally Hooton, editor of Direct Marketing International Magazine, suggested in 2008.

"As to which channel is ultimately more effective – that's actually in the hands of the 21st century consumer, who now has the choice and control of how and when to shop."

It's something Rachel Aldighieri, PR manager at the DMA agrees with. "A marketing strategy that has clearly defined the target audience and used the most appropriate channel or combinations of channels to reach them with a tailored message and call to action" will appeal to consumers the most, she said.