September 7, 2016

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Why Offline Marketing matters in an online world

It’s almost ironic that you’re reading this article, with that title, on a digital medium. In the past few years, Internet has transformed our world in ways few of us could have thought of. It has changed the way we communicate, the way we transact, the way we shop, the way we conduct business, and - even the way we date. Marketing in particular has benefited tremendously from the new and innovative means made available through online and offline marketing to aid companies in pursuits for mindshare, customer experience, brand salience and lead generation. Marketing, over the past 5-10 years, has evolved tremendously – from ATL campaigns and offline events and activations to email, search and display, social, video, and recently augmented reality and virtual reality based campaigns to maximize customer experience. You may, then, wonder why I am arguing for the seemingly archaic discipline that is offline marketing. I’ll try and explain.

A few days back, I was talking to one of my friends who is also a sales director in a large B2B organization. He was telling me this story of how he went about chasing a strategic lead. He had been trying to get his foot in the door for a meeting with the procurement head of that organization for a discussion about a multi-million-dollar contract. He had tried all the conventional methods to go about it. About one month down the line, one day he got to know from a shared connection that this procurement head had a personal hobby which he devoted time to – model aeronautics. And this one tiny bit of information was enough to land him that coveted meeting. How, you ask me? My friend sent him a remote-controlled airplane kit, however, with one small caveat – he didn’t send the remote-control along with the unit but, instead, sent a hand-written note with his contact number. Risky strategy? Maybe. Out of the box? You bet. But it worked, and that’s what matters.

Online marketing, with all its benefits, cannot be a substitute for human ingenuity which is often the secret ingredient that makes or breaks marketing campaigns. There are a couple of other compelling reasons to convince you to not overlook offline marketing while planning for your next big campaign.

Not everyone is online

This statement may not hold true if you’re an apparel brand targeting millennials but if you’re a jewelry brand targeting women over 45, chances are it does. Internet penetration today is 40% across the world and continues to grow. However, this also means that there are more people in the world without internet than who do, and some of these people may definitely be your potential customers.

Cutting the clutter

While the digital revolution has come with significant benefits, it’s not without its fair share of problems. The average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, around the time the mobile revolution began, to 8 seconds today. The study found that those with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.

Real vs virtual

This one’s an extension of that debate about Kindle vs real books. Kindle, for all its advantages, just lacks that little something compared to an actual book, and the weirdly intoxicant way they smell – both the freshly unpacked ones and those that have been lying on your shelves for years. While online marketing has conquered two senses - seeing and hearing, it is yet to figure out how to stimulate the other three – something offline marketing can.

I have to reiterate that I have nothing against digital marketing. I, personally, have benefited hugely as a marketer through the ways it has allowed me to strengthen the brands I have managed, and yielded measurable business impact. The time has come, however, to move on from the obsession with the marketing channels per se, and devise one’s marketing strategy with the following two things always in mind:

  • What is it that I am trying to achieve out of this campaign?
  • How will this campaign elevate my brand in the eyes of those who are exposed to it?

In today’s times, this can be achieved by complementing the strengths of online and offline marketing with each other’s. This is something that the leaders in the hospitality industry do the best. A great example of this is Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which consistently finds a place in the annual Forrester CX Rankings. When Photographer and travel blogger Jen Pollack Bianco checked into the Sheraton Bratislava, a Starwood property, she was greeted with a book of Instagram moments with the following note –

“As we know that Jennifer loves to take Instagram pictures, we thought you’d enjoy this hand-picked selection of 25 of our most favorite shots of Bratislava…;)”

Needless to say that such examples where marketers go that extra mile to understand their customers, and, using that knowledge, provide the best personalized experiences are the ones that will succeed beyond the metrics of clicks, impressions and conversions.

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