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In The News
The marketing wheel is turning, but is it relevant?

By Brian Deagan (CEO and co-founder, Knotice, Ltd.)
Published by The Wise Marketer in August 2006

In the 1960s many big retailers lost the ability to know and communicate relevantly with their customers. But the wheel continues to turn and they can now regain that ability, according to Knotice...

Forty years ago Pete Seeger wrote a song based on a passage from Ecclesiastes. It became a smash hit that in many ways defined the decade. Its message was "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose. That the wheel turns. And continues to turn".

Coincidentally, the 1960s was the decade in which big box marketing emerged. It was the beginning of a marketing era. Up until then, most American consumers bought from individual merchants: merchants who they knew personally. And more importantly, merchants who knew them personally. The friendly grocer down the street who knew exactly the kind of spaghetti sauce they liked. The car dealer in the next block, who knew when the last car he sold them would need to be replaced. The druggist who knew the brand of toothpaste each customer liked. The travel agent who knew they became seasick easily.

It was a time when shopping was easy. The selection may not have been great. And the prices may have been high. But it was easy.

These merchants were successful for one reason. They practised personal relevance marketing (PRM).

Personal Relevance Marketing
Personal relevance marketing is simple. It contains four elements:
  • Understanding
    The marketer learns the personal interests, tastes, habits, characteristics and lifestyles of his individual customers: each and every one.
  • Individual messaging
    The marketer ensures that his messaging to each customer precisely fits that individual. And, the messages to each customer are consistent, regardless of the medium.
  • Feedback
    The marketer also makes sure that he receives individual customer feedback and continually modifies his messaging accordingly. His interaction with each customer is always in sync with current realities.
  • Trust
    The bond of the relationship is the mutual trust that develops between each customer and each marketer. The customer knows he can trust the marketer. And the marketer honours that trust.

The marketing wheel turned
Then in the 1960s along came big box marketers. They said to the consumer, "Look, you are not getting a very big selection of products and you are paying too much for what you are buying." And they were right.

Over the next forty years consumers went for big box marketing in a big way. And, more recently, its internet siblings. Consumers liked the selection and loved the low prices. And the big box marketers were happy because they were able to serve and sell to a lot more customers. The range of selection was previously undreamed of. And the prices were incredibly low.

But personal relevance all but disappeared. It simply wasn't possible to be personally relevant on such a broad scale because, at that time, that kind of "high touch" wasn't scalable.

The changing consumer
Today's consumers are quite different from the consumer who fostered big box marketing. Life is faster and more hectic. There is less time for shopping. And the consumer, while wanting almost unlimited selection and low prices wants something else, too.

She is too busy to have marketers waste her time. She does not want to hear about things that are not of interest to her. And she doesn't want to search through tons of stuff to find the item that is just right for her. While she doesn't yet know the term, what she wants is PRM.

The wheel keeps turning
Old time personal relevance marketing disappeared because it was labour intensive and cost too much. But there is good news. Today, new technology is able to quickly, easily and incredibility efficiently, do what the trusted merchant of yesteryear did so well. Personal mass communication (like email) along with relevance marketing platforms can open up a new era of PRM. Large big box brands can now scale personal relevance to millions of customers.

Today's PRM goes way beyond traditional CRM. And it is simple for non-technical marketing people to use. It is in effect, the old time merchant transported into the 21st century.

Like the personal relevance marketing of old, today's electronic form:
  • Understands the individual consumer's interests, tastes, habits, characteristics and lifestyle (consistent with privacy issues);
  • Drives individual messaging by dynamic content that is consistent across multiple media like email, the web, mobile, etc.;
  • Automatically updates feedback from the consumer to the electronic profile of each customer for future use;
  • Enhances trust by not bombarding consumers with irrelevant email or SMS messages.

For example, with PRM, a vegetarian would no longer sift through advertisements for cold cuts and lamb chops from her local grocer, but rather receive offers relevant to her lifestyle over her preferred choice of communication, such as her mobile phone.

A new era
Personal relevance marketing is indeed ushering in a new marketing era. A time when the consumer has it all. Low prices, great selection and the kind of individual personal engagement that respects the pressures and demands the consumer of faces today. These will be golden years for consumers.

As Pete Seeger's music proclaimed forty years ago, "There is a time for everything". The time for personal relevance marketing is now.

About the Author...
Brian Deagan is CEO and co-founder of Knotice Ltd (, a software company that provides a one source, multi-channel, solution for Personal Relevance Marketing (PRM) - marketing communications tailored for individual consumers based on their own preferences, via email, web and mobile channels.

Deagan is a published authority on relevant marketing, marketing automation and creative service. He started Knotice with the objective of helping marketers communicate more effectively with their customers.

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