Show Some Respect | Adweek Show Some Respect | Adweek

Show Some Respect


Leo Burnett once said, "There is no hard sell and soft sell; there is only smart sell and stupid sell." His comment is particularly impactful in a time when online publishers, brands and agencies are desperately trying to hold on to ad revenue and budget dollars.
Many are biding their time by tinkering with what didn't work last year. Case in point: If you think of advertising today, the "Shamwow," dancing cowboys and "You've Just Won" banner ads seem to dominate-very stupid sells, I would argue. The message to consumers has become increasingly disrespectful and is the ad businesses' equivalent to the current panic selling happening in the stock market. Fear makes us act, even if the action isn't logical.
In difficult economic conditions, the "Buy Now, You Idiot!" ads seem to be the order of the day. But marketers who continue to push unwanted messages at consumers will lose in the long term. Somehow, we lost focus on the core intention of truly great marketing, building a respectful relationship between product and consumer, what I call "Respect Marketing." Smart marketers will use this economic lull as an opportunity to stop, listen and learn how to communicate with consumers instead of spinning their wheels.
The airlines are a great example of an industry with a respect deficiency. One would think they'd have a keen understanding of consumers' fundamental need for status (via frequent flier programs); though many acted rashly when they decided to charge passengers for checked bags to confront their cash-flow shortfall. While this program might have helped in the short term, it created long-lasting irritation among their most loyal travelers and fanned the flame of another problem: increased levels of carry-on baggage. This was a stupid sell -- and completely disrespectful to the lifeblood of the airline industry: their customers.

What if the airlines had listened to their customers to determine what they value? What if they had asked them which services they were willing to pay more for in order to help stave off the cash crunch? Perhaps they would have heard that customers would be more amenable to paying for carry-on bags instead, which would have had the added benefit of  decreasing security lines and boarding times.
The concept of "listening" has made it beyond conversations within ARF meetings. Case in point: our first lady is taking a "Listening Tour" around America.  Listening is finally getting the respect it deserves, for good reason. True listening allows marketers to adjust messages to make them relevant and, yes, respectful to the consumer. And listening to consumers has never been more important, since their needs and priorities change constantly. Last year's media plan might as well be 100 years old. Brand loyalty declines due to lack of relevance; a direct result of not listening.

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