Say you met Rupert Murdoch for the first time. Or you knew him a bit.
Would you call him Rupe? What about Terry Mansfield? ‘Wotcha Tel, how’s
tricks?’ Over-familiarity is a turn-off, not to say bad manners.
Reading about the new Tesco Clubcard magazine (Campaign, last week) -
there’ll be five versions and, armed with its knowledge of our
purchasing patterns, Tesco will pigeon-hole us into one of five groups,
selling different ads into each magazine accordingly - reminds me of the
over-familiar people who irritate me. If Tesco decides that I fall into
this or that category, it’s the equivalent of a total stranger calling
me Dom at a party.
And yet it’s hard not to be impressed by the technology that allows
Tesco to do this, or, indeed, to understand why it is doing it in the
first place. After all, this is the era in which marketers have a mantra
that they chant non-stop. ‘The best customer is a loyal one. We make
them loyal by building relationships with them,’ they drone, encouraged
at every turn by marketing gurus who write tomes that all begin with the
phrase ‘one-to-one’ and trumpet the end of mass media. ‘Seduce them with
special offers,’ they chant, ‘get to know them better, make friends with
your customers, make them part of our giant family.’ Yuk.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the theory. It’s just that I don’t
buy the way most advertisers seem to practise it and I reckon they’re
heading for a fall when consumers realise what’s going on. For starters,
I think that everyone who talks about loyalty marketing confuses buying
it (which is what most do) with earning it. And, frankly, a bought
loyalty isn’t worth the club card it’s credited to. Naturally, Tesco can
have my loyalty any day. But only until I get a better offer.
As for ‘relationship marketing’ (so Orwellian a term it makes me want to
throw up), come on, how often do you want to buy stuff from your
friends? Friends aren’t there to flog you stuff anyway. I don’t know
about you, but I don’t want a ‘relationship’ with my bank or supermarket
other than that they do what I want them to.
Now, where does this relate to media? First, one-to-one marketing
certainly doesn’t spell the end of mass media. Neither does it spell the
end for customer magazines. However, I think they need to be careful not
to oversell the sponsor’s products. More important, it seems to me that
advertisers must be careful not to hijack the relationship between the
medium and the consumer (and I do believe we have relationships with our
media). Equally, media owners themselves must be wary of developing
brand extensions into other areas - newspaper PEPs or magazine
merchandising - where they presume they can trade off their relationship
with the consumer. To paraphrase David Ogilvy, consumers aren’t morons,
and nor are they your friend, partner, lover or colleague. So don’t
treat them as such, especially if you want to sell them something.