Push Pull Marketing

Push vs Pull Marketing – Where are we?

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Some time ago I ventured out on a limb and suggested that the old sales and marketing model was obsolete for any non-trivial products. Ads, I opined, are being ignored for the most part – with a few notable exceptions such as the crazy Super Bowl patrons. I’ve been told that some folks tune in to the Super Bowl ONLY for the Ads. Go figure.

I’m well aware that I, like all humans, can suffer from confirmation bias – seeing what I believe. I’m also reminded (by my wife, many times each week) that I travel in rather unique circles. So I keep trying to disprove my belief that ads are pretty much obsolete and that our task, as business people, is to make sure we are found when potential clients, customers and/or partners are searching. So far, my hypothesis is holding up. I read, with interest, what Kathryn Brewer had to say over on DigitalEye:

Push marketing is still widely used but its effectiveness has dropped sharply with the explosion of technology over the past few decades, especially the Internet. The problem is simply that consumers have been given the power to make their own choices about the type of information they receive, and they’re not about to go back to the old days of being dictated to.

I was curious, of course, to find out why “Push marketing is still widely used . . .” And who is seeing it? I have to start here. These are the points my wife makes about me being in rarefied circles:

  • I do not read printed papers; I read news aggregators, blogs and digital or audio versions of “news”
  • I still have a few printed magazines coming, but due to time limits, I go to the table of contents pick an article and go right to the article to read it
  • I do not watch TV; I download and watch Podcasts of specific topics of interest (technology and science)
  • I do not have a land-line, only a cell phone and I do not answer it: unless your name shows up and I am not in a meeting (Telemarketers must hate me I haven’t taken one of their calls in over four years!)

What I found was that people who still watch TV both see and recognize the ads. Also, people who are still leafing through printed papers and magazines see some of the ads (but recognize they are seeing them less than the TV ads they see).

Do I “see ads?” The answer is “kind of.” On my PC or Tablet browser I don’t really see the ads. I know they are there, I never respond to them. I do not knowingly click on paid or sponsored results of any kind in search returns – they are not to be trusted since they are paid ads. I use only organic results. I do not learn of new products, ideas or services from ads, I learn of them because I’m interested in a topic or reading a science, technology or business blog and see a new advancement. In other words, I only pull information. I go to very few stores since I mostly shop on-line. When purchasing, I research first, make up my mind on the product supplier I intend to use and purchase on-line or, if I must, go to a physical store and purchase only the item of interest.

Ads are meant to sell. If you are “selling me,” then you are trying to get me to do something I don’t need or want to do. If I want something, I’ve already got it or have it on a list to research and buy when I’m ready.

My totally unscientific research, in an admittedly limited and unrepresentative sample of people, shows many of my friends are catching up to me on these “anti-ad traits.” The exception is sports. I am the world’s worst sports fan. I watch no sports, read no sports and rarely (once very 10 years?) ever go to a sporting event. I am the advertiser’s worse nightmare. Their ads, if I see them at all, serve to steer me away from their products out of shear obstinacy.

My advice to business leaders is to continue to diminish the amount of budget dollars you spend on traditional ads and move it to branding or “pull” marketing. Brewer is a bit more sanguine about it:

A push strategy will help establish brand awareness among those consumers who may have never heard of you, while pull marketing will help you attract the attention of those prospects who are actively researching solutions.

As more and more people “cut the cord” on cable and stream those shows in which they are interested, traditional ads will go away. Information about products and services as well as what’s new in products and services will be found by individuals searching. So far my hypothesis is intact. Ads are going the way of the Dodo bird in terms of effectiveness. Make sure you and your company are found.