Our latest survey followed up a recent blog entitled, ‘Behavioural Science: Who Decides What We Buy’ which looked at the complex marketing choices facing businesses looking at the best ways to market their products and innovations. The survey continued with the central theme of the blog…is it now completely acceptable for companies to use sophisticated targeted marketing to manipulate consumer behaviour rather than to reflect consumer demand?
As usual, the responses from our panel were insightful and revealing. We asked six questions to discover their attitudes toward targeted advertising and marketing.
Survey respondents were very clear when asked for views on the first statement: New products require significant time and investment, therefore, it is ‘fair game’ for companies to undertake targeted marketing in order to sell to consumers.
Seventy-four per cent agreed with this statement with only 7.4% disagreeing. A result which supports the notion that target marketing, especially in the digital age, is now widely accepted as an important aspect of commerce. One survey panel member said: “Generating sales and profits is vital for a company to make future investment in product innovations.”
The respondents were asked to answer as consumers for the next question: When products have been targeted at you specifically, for example, through traditional direct mail and/or social media, typically what has been your reaction?
The question split the panel down the middle with 37% feeling happy to have been introduced to a new product/innovation while 33% took a different viewpoint, expressing concern that their preferences have been so closely monitored in order to sell to them. Eleven per cent were baffled as to why they had been selected to receive information about a product; perhaps a reflection that not all targeted marketing is as precise as it could be. “I’m happy when the product or service is genuinely useful. Grumpy when way off, for example, free eye checks for the over sixty-fives, when I’m in my fifties,” said one respondent.
Customer satisfaction after purchasing through targeted advertising was tackled: How do you feel after you have been persuaded through advertising to buy a product you had not been considering before you saw the ad?
Overwhelming, the panel (59%) said they were happy to have bought something that they really needed. Seven per cent felt the opposite, a further 7% were regretful for making an impulse purchase while the remaining 7% said they were happy to have been adventurous in making the purchase. In conclusion, most of the panel (66%) expressed positive feelings about being introduced to products via online marketing.
The panel was also asked about the overall effect of marketing: Is the claim that marketing significantly influences consumer spending habits exaggerated?
Fifty-six per cent think that the claim is not exaggerated and that consumers are easily tempted into buying. Thirty-seven per cent disagreed saying that buying decisions are complex, dependent on many factors, not just clever marketing.
Another respondent commented, “Marketing has significant influence and it is overly simplistic to cast consumers as dummies but we’re all busy and have limited headspace for decision-making.”
Although targeted marketing is now a key factor in selling products, it can also be considered intrusive. The panel was asked: Can persistent targeted marketing (eg frequent ads being shown on social media) put consumers off brands/products?
Fifty-six per cent of the panel said yes, and that today’s consumers are adept at researching and buying what they want without the need for hard-sell tactics. Only 15% disagreed stating that people ignore what they are not interested in and buy what they really want.
Finally, the panel was asked: Does sophisticated research and marketing stimulate innovation?
Forty-one per cent agreed that it does with only 7% disagreeing. A large percentage (30%) did not know. Perhaps an indication that this subject has not been widely researched yet. Considering this question, a respondent said, “Sophisticated research and marketing can often create products and services that consumers have never dreamed of.”
In conclusion, the consensus from our survey panel was that targeted marketing is here to stay and is a very valuable tool for all types of companies. It’s fair to say that businesses love it as it affords quick and easy access to potential buyers. As consumers, however, our panel was understandably wary about marketing that isn’t targeted well enough and the possibility of being bombarded with repetitive and often irrelevant advertising. This is when consumers begin to loathe the feeling of manipulation through advertising.
However, when marketing departments take the time to hit the right targets our panel agreed that most people would be happy to be introduced to and to buy something that they really need.