A new way of thinking about pull marketing

I was in a couple of interesting meetings recently. Normally meetings give the illusion of getting work done but actually just serve to repeat problems and issues of which people are well aware and prevent them from taking the actions they need to improve the situation. However, every now and again someone shares something that is really interesting.

The first meeting featured a look at the marketing of the recent animated film Coraline , based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. It was a fascinating look into a marketing campaign, so totally faithful to what it is supposed to be marketing that it becomes part of the product itself. Check out the boxes that were very carefully aimed at specific bloggers and added layers of mystery and intrigue to the storyline.

The second meeting included a talk by a colleague on digital marketing and various techniques available to encourage positive word of mouth on blogs. In this meeting there was a very interesting description of networks of bloggers and consumers talking about a brand where that brand has a centre of gravity caused by the positive word of mouth of those closest to it.

Both these meetings got me thinking about “push” and “pull” marketing. It is pretty well understood these days that that it is best to avoid the “push” techniques of the past where an advertiser interrupts the consumer’s life with a commercial message and repeats it until they think the consumer has taken it on board.

Instead we often talk about “pulling” consumers towards brands with engaging communications that are worth paying attention to. Often the focus is on pulling new consumers towards the brand who haven’t been targeted before or who aren’t already our customers. The trouble is that then really the only thing that makes it pull marketing and not push marketing is some sort of subjective judgement that the communications are engaging. You are still interrupting someone’s life, who you haven’t spoken to before and hoping they will be receptive and interested.

And of course that is very easy to get wrong. If you are a bank what could be more engaging than an ad explaining the details of that amazing new current account deal? Or if you are an ice cream maker an ad announcing a new flavour? Of course to the rest of us that is just stuff we would probably rather not know and certainly don’t want to be interrupted to be told about.

The situation is only a little different if the consumer is a fan of First Direct. Or Haagen Daz. And just loves hearing from those brands. Seth Godin called the successful use of that interest “permission marketing” . First you get the consumers’ permission to interrupt them, then interrupt the hell out of them!

But instead what if we think of pull marketing like my colleague described it, as like the pull of gravity. If there is a centre of gravity then the conversation can start with those closest to the brand – the employees, existing consumers and customers. Then it’s not interrupting a stranger, it’s engaging a friend.

If I make a product or service that is really good, and I treat my marketing as if it is part of my product or service, then I will want to tell people about it – my friends and family and the people I meet. The people that work for and with the company will want to do the same thing too. Employees will tell their friends. Suppliers and customers will too. And hopefully those people will like it too and tell more people and more and more etc. And they can tell more people than ever before because we are all connected.

So then you don’t need to try to tell loads of people (in a broadcast way). The focus should be on creating something worth talking about. This is what the guys behind the Coraline campaign focused on. I think they focused on creating something with integrity, value, freshness and that was easy and instant. And so ended up empowering and facilitating people’s conversations.

I suppose this isn’t really that new. The best brands have always done this. They have loved and cared for their products and the brand. They have understood that money follows on from this love. That whatever the terminology and technology, great marketing is based on having something interesting to say and saying it in an interesting way.

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