Customer Bait

Lost: Diamond tennis bracelet, probably at Costco.

This local classified ad is a perfect illustration of the crossover consumer we have become, comfortable in so many different areas that marketers find it increasingly challenging to use segmentation effectively.

Add this crossover factor to the new demographics and targeting gets tougher still. A recent article in Financial Times, Samuel Huntington’s “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” notes that our demographics are changing, and drastically at that: “The single most immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants compared with black and white American natives.”

It’s a time of massive consumer transformation, one we seem to resist acknowledging. Instead of just trying to update an old customer acquisition approach, we would be smarter if we rethought how we go about gathering customers in general.

Yep, pull marketing is back. When the Internet started making waves, marketers claimed that all customers would be pulled into sales over the Internet and that pushing via mailings was dead. An overstatement, yes. But, as it turns out, not far from the truth.

We are over mailing lists, our creative is as distinctive as the hundreds of six-toed cat “clones” in Key West, FL, and we’re all starting to sell the same stuff. Not to mention that message bombardment has forced consumers to learn the art of tuning out all marketing.

Effective pull marketing requires that you know what your customers want before they know they want it.

Here are a few key areas where pull shines.

Web Sites

Larry Dotson reports on Top7 that the main reason people don’t visit a Web site is that it doesn’t offer free original content. Catalogers tend to be horrid at content.

Rather, consider the British publication More, which allowed visitors to download an instant boyfriend for two weeks with the relationship unfolding every day. The copy: “It’s great – a boyfriend and a screen saver in one! Who says men aren’t useful? But beware, a lot can happen in two weeks. Men are an unpredictable breed.”

Another Web-site draw: films. Budweiser runs ads to invite filmmakers to create films for its site. Having recently gone to an independent film festival and listened to filmmakers talk, I learned that “hiring” someone to create an original film is not expensive. Most produced their films with their own money; the highest budget (for a subsidized school project) was $30,000. Create a theme that makes sense for your company’s image, start a contest using your Web site or catalog and watch the movies roll in.

Viral Marketing

Remember “I told two friends, they told two friends…”? That’s what viral marketing is all about.

Best current example: the Suburban Auto Group and its hilarious Trunk Monkey commercials. Though no longer running, the ads have such a cult-like following they have spawned an entire site and are being forwarded like crazy. Viral marketing caused this tiny auto dealership in Sandy, OR to become one of the most talked-about companies on the Web. Visit to find out why.


Tie-ins offer another reason for consumers to choose you. Industrial supplies cataloger New Pig ties in with Victory Junction Gang, a nonprofit that’s building a camp touted as “a magical place where special kids can just be kids.” As the camp was founded by the Petty car racing family, and New Pig has a habit of giving away NASCAR racing glasses, the pairing seems natural.


There are three basic kinds of endorsements: customer, authority and celebrity. They all work. And you never can have enough of them, especially from customers.

For a celebrity endorser, look for a careful match, one who has long-standing credibility and enhances your brand overall. My agency hired “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter as the spokeswomen for Lens Express, believing her great big eyes were the key. Combined with the slogan “Would I trust these baby blues to just anyone?” the endorsement overcame concerns about ordering contact lenses by mail.

Public Relations

Historian and author Daniel J. Boorstin said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire PR officers.” It’s very simple. PR works.

David Hochberg, vice president of public affairs for Direct Holdings Worldwide, the parent company of Lillian Vernon, Rue de France and Time Life’s direct marketing division, says: “A third-party endorsement by the media always adds credibility to your brand. Most consumers view the media as an objective source of information and most Americans get their news and information from the media. A proactive public relations campaign can add considerable pull to your marketing efforts.”

So make sure your PR presence is easy to spot on your Web site.

Humor in Advertising

Delta Apparel, a B-to-B marketer of knitwear products, used the theme “Unusually Heavy T-shirts” for a campaign in a business publication. One ad showed a kid leaving deep indentations in a sidewalk as he ran along.

Another featured a swing hanging very low due the heft of its Delta-clad passenger. Both made it clear that Delta T-shirts were anything but lightweight. The results: a 24% jump in sales, 49% more new customers and T-shirt sales that grew 158%.

Super Bowl commercials have long been considered the place to look for the best in advertising. So how important is humor? Of ESPN’s top 10 ads from this year’s game, eight used humor.

Bottom line? Keep an open mind. And consider anything that will get customers to come to you rather than you having to chase them.

KATIE MULDOON is president of DM/catalog consulting firm Muldoon & Baer Inc., Tequesta, FL.

COPYRIGHT 2004 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Source: Direct

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