Don’t sell venison to a vegetarian

A generation ago, the only high-tech product in most peoples’ lives was the TV, sitting proudly in the corner of the lounge.

A generation ago, the only high-tech product in most peoples’ lives was the TV, sitting proudly in the corner of the lounge, biding its time until it became master of the house each evening. Fast forward to today: a person setting out to walk the dog feels a sense of loss if they leave their mobile phone sitting on the hall table. We are constantly connected to the wider world and are being bombarded with information from the moment we wake, to when we kiss our other half good night.

The number of adverts our brains are asked to process each day is mind boggling. How can we possibly give our full attention to each message we face?

Here’s some interesting statistics for you from SJ Insights:
  • The total number of advertisement and brand exposures (this includes walking past labels in a supermarket) has risen from approx. 2,000 30 years ago, to approx. 5,000 today.
  • The total number of adverts that we actually take any note of has risen from 124 in 1945 to 153 today.
  • Of our daily 5,000 exposures to brands, only 12 will make an impression on us.

Although our exposures to brands has risen by 150% in a generation, the number that we actually pay attention to has risen by only 23%. What do we take from this?

One obvious assumption is that we are getting better at filtering out irrelevant messages. This is not surprising considering the tidal wave of messages heading our way each day. If we don’t get better at filtering, we will be submerged in the sea of brands.

In 1945, we paid attention to 6.2% of all brand messages that we were exposed to; today we pay attention to only 3.1%, with only 0.02% of them getting any real attention from us.

As a marketer, what do you do about this? You need to get your message noticed, but you are fighting a myriad of other marketers for a miniscule piece of a very large pie.

Here’s a couple of ideas for you:
  1. Make your message relevant to your audience. Don’t waste your time trying to sell venison to a vegetarian.
  2. Increase the number of exposures that your audience get of your message. Imprint your brand and message into their mind.

Preferably, you should do both.

Let’s take a hypothetical example:


You own a car dealership that sells a range of cars, from luxury models to hatch-backs. You want to increase your sales next month by 20% on the previous year.

Method 1 – The Old way

Place an advert listing all your cars in the local Saturday morning paper, because that’s what you’ve been doing for years. Maybe a sale will come from it, maybe it won’t. You don’t really care, because you have done your “marketing” for the week. The box has been ticked!

Method 2 – Try a personalised approach

Step 1: Find a database. Preferably this would be a list of potential clients that you have assiduously been keeping up to date. But if not, you can buy a good list from NZ Post for a very reasonable price.

Step 2: Segment your database based on the likely buying preferences of the people in it. If it’s a bought list, you may want to use postcode as a method of segmentation.

Step 3: Design and send out a direct-mail card with a message and image that are interchangeable, based on the segmentations. If an address is in the high end of town, sell them a Lexus; if it’s in a commuter belt, promote a Corolla. Make sure that there is a call to action on the card, such as inviting the recipient to book a test drive.

Step 4: One week later, send another card to those people that have not replied to your first card. Put a different image, message, and a different call to action on this card. Maybe you could offer a sweetener to get them to commit?

Step 5: One month later, review your campaign. How much did it cost? What was the ROI? What went well and what didn’t? Tweak it and try again.

There’s no denying that the second method is more complicated, will take more effort and likely more expense. But if you’re always going to take the easy road, then life is going to be pretty ho-hum and I suspect that your business won’t grow as quickly as you would like.