Benchmarking study shows dramatic changes in approaches to consumer-oriented marketing

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

Benchmarking study shows dramatic changes in approaches to consumer-oriented marketing

Bill Lowell could tell you about some great branding programs for products that no longer exist. In the coming years, that kind of branding might no longer exist, either.
As development and introduction cycles for new products get shorter and shorter, it will get harder and harder, and less cost efficient, to brand products that may not be around for long, says Lowell, who with his wife Jan run Business Development Directives in Eagle.
"There is a much shorter time to market new products," notes Lowell, whose firm recently completed a benchmarking study of marketing trends. "Products are coming and going so fast; they can’t keep up."
The trend, says Lowell, is to brand the company instead. It’s not a new concept, but company branding is becoming more common and will be the norm for successful companies in coming years, Lowell’s research found.
That company branding won’t just be about the company, Lowell says. It will revolve around all-important relationships with customers.
"While brands of today are used to differentiate products and convey benefits and emotion, the brand of tomorrow will represent the company’s attributes and personal relationship with each customer," he writes in the study summary.
The study, "Exploring the Newest Marketing Trends – Marketing Best Practices," was conducted by Business Development Directives ( in August.
The branding approach wasn’t the only new thing BDD found when the firm looked at consumer-oriented marketing trends.
"Everything is different," Lowell says. "How we look at a customer is different. Technology is different. The tools of marketing are different. And lifestyles are different."
The customer
It’s not the transaction the customer of the new millennium is primarily interested in, BDD’s research found. "Customers want to be entertained; they want an experience. Providing an experience for the customer is just as important as the transaction," Lowell says.
Those customers will demand more personalization of products and great customer service. They will be family- and community-focused, but they also will want more comforts for themselves.
"They desire to be surrounded by upscale things such as vacation homes and luxury hotels, and are interested in leaving a legacy for their children," Lowell writes in his study summary. "Consumers today also have busy schedules and tend to shop at one-stop discount stories and to order take-out food. They are also coming out of their cocoons and are more in touch with the world around them."
The "customer" also is becoming more diverse. Lowell noted that, in the 2000 US Census, 7 million Americans identified themselves as multi-racial. Meanwhile, the Hispanic market continues to expand, especially on the Internet, where Lowell said BDD found Hispanic marketing growth three times faster than any other online segment.
And the study found that women, who are having an increasing influence in business, are drawn more to marketing messages that address how they feel rather than how they look.
"What it all means is that businesses need to better understand the customer and need to know how to solve their customers’ problems," Lowell said. "Customer relationship and loyalty programs will be the key to business success."
Technology is helping develop and maintain those customer relationships. Focus groups are going online, reducing logistical challenges and saving travel costs. Mobile Internet advertising is huge in some countries, allowing companies to interact with customers at the points of purchase. And focused e-mail campaigns are expanding, with "intelligent communication services" enabling marketers to track consumer information and deliver real-time, personalized marketing material.
And all of that will be done in cleaner, clearer messages, Lowell says. "Whether it is a printed piece or an e-mail message, one thing is constant in the new look of direct marketing materials – less is more," Lowell writes in the study summary. "Designers are creating pieces with less complex graphics and fewer components. Additionally, these pieces will carry a more personalized message."
Companies are still taking too long to respond to online inquiries, Lowell says, noting a study by the media firm Jupiter showing that 42% of top-ranked Web sites had response times of five days or more and, in some cases, didn’t respond to customers at all.
"It’s unbelievable," Lowell says of the poor response times and lack of response. "It’s like having a Porsche in the driveway with no driver’s license."
Marketing tools
In the arena of marketing tools, the picture is somewhat one of "back to the future," Lowell said, with smaller firms taking advantage of partnerships to do more at an affordable cost.
Smaller companies are having more success with online sales, but because the technology is universal, there is more competition. Still, the study found that 96% of all small businesses plan to increase Internet spending next year. "It’s staggering," Lowell said.
Affiliate marketing is growing online, with partnered businesses linking their Web sites.
Lowell also found evidence of more cause-related marketing, more spending on larger exhibits at trade shows – "trade shows are back," he says – and more on promotions that support customer loyalty.
"Last year alone, organizations spent $233 billion on promotional advertising, exceeding advertising spending" the BDD study notes. Lowell says it was the first time that promotional spending exceeded advertising spending.
Internal marketing is also expanding. "A company cannot have a truly integrated marketing program unless is has an ongoing internal marketing component as part of that program," the report states. "Internal marketing is creating, packaging and delivering an organization’s business messages to all employees in the organization" and helps generate greater brand loyalty.
Lifestyle changes are also driving marketing changes, Lowell says, with busier lives prompting more people to want convenience and speed in products. "There will be even more food on the go," Lowell says.
At the same time, people are "slowing down their social calendars", he says, and are becoming more self-reliant with new technologies.
That self-reliance will make it harder to reach them and to market to them, making customer development and relationship programs all the more important.
Status symbols have changed, too, Lowell says. "Before, it was expensive cars; now, it’s vacation homes, upscale hotels, travel abroad and dining at expensive restaurants. It almost goes back to my earlier statement that it’s about entertaining the customer."
And while social calendars are becoming less crammed, that doesn’t mean people are holing themselves up, Lowell says. "Connectedness is in and cocooning is out. We want to be more connected via various media, we want to travel and we want a family life in neighborhoods," he says. "The trend is to be connected to the groups that matter." Businesses that know what "matters" to their customers can take advantage of that through affinity marketing.

With all the changes, Lowell says, "There has never been a more vital time for organizations to re-examine their marketing efforts to ensure they are sending the right messages to potential customers and to enable them to recognize new customers."

Dec. 26, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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