Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Remember the Forgotten Marketing Medium?

Image representing Nielsen as depicted in Crun...
Here is a trivia question: If you are launching a new item, what is the best medium to get your message out about that new item? Television? Maybe an email campaign? Mobile ads? 

This might be a surprise, but according to a 2013 survey conducted by Nielsen, the single most frequently-cited source of information about new items is “friends and family.” In other words, most people learn about new items by word of mouth. Nielsen’s results show that 77% of consumers specify this medium. Keep in mind this is not “social media,” as that came under a separate heading.

So how do those people initially find out about that new product? Next on the list of effective communications media is the store. Fully 72% of consumers said they found out about new items while in the store shopping. Seventy percent said they got a free sample (generally in-store as part of a demo), and that is how they learned about the product.

For the record, television was cited by 59% and emails by a lowly 34%. These results are based on polling 29,000 people from 58 countries, all with varying demographics and behaviors. By the way, social media was good for about 43%. Text messages are effective for 27% of consumers. The study doesn’t say whether these are opt-in messages. Mobile wasn’t called out in the study as a specific medium, other than the texting stat. But since most social media interaction takes place on mobile devices, it’s a good bet that mobile has a role throughout the mix. This is more likely as online viewing of television becomes more prevalent. 

Whether one is a retailer or a manufacturer, the single most effective way to introduce consumers to a new product is one of the oldest: in the store. Once those shoppers are in the know, they will share experiences (good and bad) with friends and family. They might go online and post something on Facebook, but that is as likely to be negative as not. Not only does the store offer a solid audience, it also provides greater control over the message than social or word of mouth. 

Over the past five years or so, most marketing focus has been on two areas: mobile and social. A new term (SoLoMo) has come about—short for Social, Local, Mobile—and while this is all timely and relevant, in more than a few cases the store itself has been left out of the mix.

Google has been touting its Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) perspective, which states that the research done prior to purchase is most important in driving behavior, but what ZMOT doesn’t do is get the shopper at the shelf edge to actually grab the item and put it into the cart. The single best way to do this is by communicating with the shopper at the original “First Moment of Truth,” which is the only one that matters. That’s when the shopper either picks up an item with the intent to buy, or she passes it by. Everything up to that point is speculation, but purchase behavior is binary; it either happened or it didn’t. 

There is no doubt that the media landscape has changed drastically in the past few years. Television and radio remain important, while social and mobile haven’t been around long enough to truly gauge their long-term impact. With Millennials shifting from Facebook to Instagram or Pinterest, there is no single site that gets the job done, so simply having a link to Facebook is only a start. New social sites will continue to pop up, and being there will be important as well as they gain viewers. But for sheer impact and delivery of message, nothing succeeds like the store, specifically the shelf edge.

Some marketers see shopper marketing as “so 2007,” and while in-store doesn’t have the sexiness of mobile or social, it doesn’t have the volatility either. In-store communication is more critical than ever; if the shelf is where 72% of consumers learn about new items, that same 72% also present a target-rich environment for marketers looking to reach broad audiences that are open to product messages, and who are able to act quickly on a call to action. 

Despite decades of searching, there is no “silver bullet” for marketers with a message to deliver. Traditional media continues to fragment, and new forms continue to pop up, making effective media mix selection an ongoing challenge. It is essential to define the communications strategy early on, and from there develop the media mix needed to deliver the message. The important thing to note is that no matter what the other media elements are – from ROP to mobile – the store is and will continue to be one of the most effective and indispensable media, and one that can’t be overlooked.


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