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There is a dawning realization among marketing-driven businesses that mass media advertising, like military bombing campaigns, cannot achieve the results you get from troops on the ground. So why are companies ignoring this shifting consumer landscape, from the largest chain to the corner grocery, at their peril.
I’ve got a picture of the late Ray Kroc taken in the early 60’s. He’s standing in front of one of his stores, in the parking lot, with a garden hose in his hand, washing down the pavement.
There are two things about this picture that, in hindsight, strike me as remarkable and instructive. At that point in his career, Ray Kroc could understandably have considered this mundane task unworthy of his valuable time. But Ray was the sort of person who took an intense, personal interest in every detail of his business, when he had one store and when he had thousands. His philosophy was simple: it’s all local.
The second remarkable thing is that he considered a clean and tidy parking lot such an important aspect of his marketing that he took it upon himself to make sure it got done. He taught me that being a good neighbor was good for business; everything sells, even a clean parking lot.
During the past three decades I’ve consulted for hundreds of food service businesses and I am always astonished when the first thing they expect from me is a catchy slogan and an ad campaign. No one has told them, certainly not their marketing departments or ad agencies, that mass media advertising is dead.
What killed it is the blizzard of marketing messages that consumers are bombarded with every day. The length of a tv, commercial has shrunk, the number of commercials during a program break has quadrupled, and the number of viewers who recall ads they have seen has plunged from one in three to one in five, according to the Advertising Research Foundation. And then there is the clicker and TiVo.
Advertising in America has become frantic, clever, expensive, ubiquitous, and invisible. The word you hear most often now in ad circles is clutter, followed by recall. The two are inversely proportional. Thanks to cable tv, the Internet, Social Media, and the revelation that an ad can be slapped on just about anything, even a piece of fruit. Consumers are besieged by messages that leave little or no impression.
Companies that follow my advice dip into their ad budgets and in some cases clash them, and put the money into the four walls of their businesses. They focus on hiring eagles instead of turkeys and then make employees their marketing partners. They pay close attention to details like clean bathrooms, pleasing décor, and great hospitality. They remember customers’ birthdays, give regular customers guest certificates, and form neighborhood partnerships with other businesses and community organizations.
If this sounds familiar, it should – it’s what used to be business-as-usual when America shopped at a general store where the owner knew his customers and catered to their every whim and need.
Some marketers are getting it. When was the last time you saw a television commercial for Starbucks stores? Yet the company is a shining success story. The reason is clear; Starbuck’s marketing budget is invested inside the four walls, where there is no competition and no clutter.
The future is in face time, not air time. It’s what customers want and, increasingly, are demanding. As the NFO World Group study reported, customers “are crying out for a generic experience to be turned into a personal one.”
It’s a concept Ray Kroc understood and on which he built his umpire, one store and one neighborhood at a time. It’s all local and everything sells. Especially a smile!