The Weekly Buzz: Marketing Wizardry
What’s ethical when it comes to persuasion? Sales and marketing professionals use insights from psychology to try to understand their customers. But they also want to influence them. Sometimes, that attention to persuasion pushes the boundaries.
This year has seen a lot of news about Cambridge Analytica and their unsanctioned business model of making money from people’s answers to Facebook quizzes. They solicited information about respondents meant to place them on a quadrant of personality types. Then they sold this information to advertisers who used the knowledge that, say, Bob was neurotic to target advertising to his personality (in this case, ads that would play up his worries to induce him to spend on security equipment or vote against gun control). Going beyond demographics, the study of “psychographics” is reasonably well-studied and widely practiced. Collecting and selling such sensitive info about people without consent, on the other hand, will hopefully not spread widely.
A lot of people would be uncomfortable with psychographics, where the goal is to influence people based on their character traits and personalities. But what if you are fine with prospective niche customers knowing you are marketing to them… you just want the population at large to miss it? This was the scenario that Subaru faced in the 1990s, when many people were upset by ads featuring gays and lesbians. Subaru successfully marketed their cars to a loyal customer segment—lesbians—using coded messages that the target audience enjoyed spotting while many others missed it.
In any human communication, first impressions make a big difference—and can be manipulated. While the advice in this Wall Street Journal piece Kevin found is mostly aimed at salespeople’s face-to-face interactions, it has some key takeaways about tone from actors and coaches. Even in marketing writing, it’s important to maintain a consistent tone, rather than suddenly shifting enthusiasm level. It’s not inauthentic: adjusting the tone of marketing communications to suit prospects’ interests and corporate cultures shows you are paying attention to them.
What do you think about these examples of using information about customers to communicate interest in your company? Let us know!