Electronic Marketing Symbiosis
industry, as you may have noticed, is in a fluxormore of a typhoon,
actually. Telemarketing has become much more restricted due to the plethora
of legislation mandating do-not-call lists, dialer restrictions, fines and
untold amounts of negative press.
Anti-spam legislation is a new step, but before that,
we had the ability to blacklist certain sources of spam, and all of us have
installed spam filters, pop-up blockers, banner ad blockers, spyware search
and destroy programs and more measures of blocking online intrusions than
you could shake a stick at (presuming you are inclined to shaking sticks).
Tivo and on-demand television and video, not to mention
DVD players, have helped us regulate the advertising out of our television
and movie viewing. Web and satellite radio let us listen to music
commercial-free. About the only place marketing has a truly captive audience
is at the movie theater, where it has become commonplace to run very
strange, stylized commercials before the main features. The viewing
audience, however, has begun to anticipate these ads, and counts the 15
minutes before the film starts as prime popcorn buying time and pre-feature
It doesnt matter how many new methods crop up, you
cant market to people who dont want to be marketed to. The key to solving
this problem is in my last sentence. We need to make people want to be
The past two decades, the general public has become
wearier and wearier of the increasingly shrill tone of marketing and
advertising, particularly in the consumer sector. Has anyone noticed how
fierce and bitter the Antacid Wars have become? I cannot watch television
for an hour without being subjected to five different kinds of
gastrointestinal cures, all battling one another over the details. This one
says you have to wait two days for relief! This one starts immediately! If
you dont solve your reflux problem, youll get esophageal cancer! Really!
Is the lining of your esophagus puckered or otherwise weird? Do you know how
you can turn off the little acid pumps in your stomach? Why get a
prescription when you can buy our Gas-Away brand in the supermarket! You can
eat yummy foods like pizza, Mexican lava stew and hellfire vindaloo when you
take our pill! Put away the white toast and low-salt chicken broth forever!
Its the purple one you wantif its not purple, it sucks!
Whats next? Are we going to have American
Gladiator-style battles on primetime television between the top executives
of the tummy pill companies?
Yeah, yeah, yeahits enough to give a person
Back to making people want to be marketed to. Let me
start by saying its an understatement that I get a lot of marketing e-mail,
ranging from blatant spam (lose 100 pounds by noon) and fairly targeted
newsletters. I wish I had time to read every newsletter I get each day, so
Id be the most educated business person on the planet. Suffice it to say
that I dont, and Im not.
There is, however, one marketing communication I always
openevery time. In fact, I look forward to receiving them.
Im a fairly faithful customer of American Airlines.
Even when they lose my luggage the night before a trade show in Las Vegas,
and hand me only a toothbrush and a vague apology, I still tend to book with
them. Why? All my frequent flier miles are with American, and my credit card
is linked to earning air miles.
It goes far beyond that, however. American sends me an
e-mail once a week. That e-mail includes a tally of my air miles,
information on how many miles Ive earned recently and news of specials on
airfare. Beyond that, it tells me about new programs available to help me
earn more air miles (book with Hertz this winter and earn 10 miles for every
dollar you spend; link your AT&T account to your AAdvantage account and earn
miles on long-distance service, fill out a marketing survey and be put in a
contest pool to win one million miles; buy flowers from 800-FLOWERS for your
Mom on Mothers Day and earn a bonus of 2,000 miles; book online and print
your own boarding pass and earn 1,000 miles).
Additionally, the weekly bulletin is targeted to menot
to 50,000 other recipients whose demographics vaguely resemble mine, but me.
Based on my past ticket buying behavior, American knows I frequently travel
to Chicago on business, knows I like to go to New Orleans for fun, and knows
Ive been shopping on their Web site for airfare to Ireland. As a result,
they dont bother showing me the special fares to Duluth, Atlanta and
Bucharest. They send me an e-mail when the fare to Dublin drops by $25 or
more from its previous price, and they update me when theyre offering a
special airfare and hotel deal to New Orleans.
Next, American has begun a program called iDine, which
allows frequent flyer members to earn air miles at local restaurants. When I
signed up for the program, they threw 500 air miles at me and sent me a book
with a list of all the participating restaurants across the U.S. and abroad.
When I meet friends at the popular local tapas bar and restaurant,
have two glasses of rioja, tuna tartar and some fried calamari and put $53
on my AA-linked credit card, I get an e-mail two days later informing me
that 530 miles have been credited to my account. The result? Im more likely
to spend money at restaurants that are linked to the program. Good for the
restaurants, good for American Airlines and good for Citibank. Very, very
good for earning my loyalty as a consumer.
I introduced the plan to my parents, and knew theyd
become addicts the day they admitted to eating corndogs and drinking lite
beer in the worst dive in town the night before, all because the place
offered 20 miles for each dollar spent in the iDine program.
Ive created monsters.
Perhaps the most ingenious e-marketing ploy American
has shown to date, though, is its eRewards program. Since I signed up for
the program, several times per week, I receive an e-mail that contains
click-through screens of advertisements: sometimes for Hertz, sometimes for
financial services, perhaps for a car company or a resort hotel. If I open
the e-mail and click through the screens, then rate the ads value to me on
a scale of one to 10, I earn eRewards dollars. The dollars tally up, and I
can make purchases with my dollars from the rewards program. My target?
Two thousand additional air milesall for reading e-mail advertisements.
What does American and its marketing partners get? Information on how to
better target ads to me as a consumer and a business traveler.
All in all? I feel that the company knows who I am,
knows what I like, and is genuinely working hard to bring marketing messages
to me that I value and of which I am likely to take advantage. And I live in
hope that someday soon, Ill get an e-mail that includes a deep discount on
an Admirals Club membership.
Meanwhile, Ill occupy myself with keeping my parents
out of crack-den restaurants that offer good frequent dining points deals.
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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