This week it’s time to think of a different kind of B2B marketing…that’s right, we’re talking about getting back to basics. We’ve said it before, it’s a crowded market out there, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to make your brand’s voice heard. Recently we’ve noticed a new trend which appears to be dominating the marketing world - old school ideas, or even ‘back to basics’ marketing. It’s clear that big brands are moving away from exclusively high-tech tactics, instead opting for a more simple approach when it comes to attracting customers and making their presence known. We’ve mentioned the importance of keeping things simple in a previous blog post, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that newer doesn’t necessarily mean better anymore. So today we’re looking at some of the ways in which top brands are adapting to this change in customer opinion, and what that could mean for the future of marketing.
The Good Old Days
In an age where life is beginning to seem a little dark and worrying, particularly for young adults, many want to return to simpler times. Nostalgia is becoming a key aspect of millennial identity, and The Debrief has even gone as far as to say that Generation Y is “the most nostalgic generation ever”. Nineties fashion is dominating the high street, Spotify offers a never-ending variety of curated Old School playlists and Facebook advertises their very own “nostalgia machine” in the form of their ‘on this day’ feature. The relaunch of the classic Adidas Gazelle - featuring Kate Moss 25 years on from her debut as the face of the brand - made it very clear just how successful nostalgia can be as a marketing tool. The ongoing success of brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi and McDonalds could even be partially attributed to their strong and well-showcased ties with childhood, and with the past - like it or not, they are institutions and cultural icons, and their classic branding makes their ‘old-school’ status clear to any consumer. Pepsi in particular highlighted their iconic status by introducing "throwback" versions of their drinks, which were packaged using retro designs to inspire rose-tinted memories of yesteryear.
Creating an emotional connection with the consumer is seen as the “holy grail” of marketing, and nostalgia marketing is often seen as a surefire way of achieving this. As Lauren Friedman says: “Associating brand messaging with positive references from the 90s, 80s — and even the 70s — humanizes brands, forging meaningful connections between the past and present” (Forbes). One key example of late is the much-hyped return of the Nokia 3310, the iconic phone which has been the subject of many memes and articles in recent years. The phone’s longstanding reputation for being dependable and indestructible has earned it a cult following amongst millennials. The Nokia 3310 was arguably the iPhone of the early 2000s, as the famous Nokia ringtone was at one point heard almost 2 billion times a day worldwide (Financial Times). This attempt to reintroducing the once-ubiquitous phone could be seen as the next step in nostalgia marketing - bringing a reliable product steeped in positive consumer memories back onto the radar.
What’s more, the astronomical success of Pokémon Go following its launch last summer made it clear that nostalgia is more than just a passing craze. Just two days after the release of the app, it was reportedly installed on over 5% of Android devices in the US, and had over 21 million daily active users in the USA alone (The Guardian). The idea of combining a simple, old school concept with fresh graphics, an updated strategy and a modern platform is undeniably genius. Initiatives such as this, and Apple’s successful iPhone 6S campaign, which used the undeniably nostalgic Cookie Monster as its spokesperson, are proving more and more popular. It’s possible they have resonated profoundly with millennials because they seem to straddle the boundary between traditional, old school marketing and a more tech-savvy, digital approach, recapturing and celebrating “those special moments in time, those unique cultural events from the past that millennials crave” (Forbes).
Direct Mail is the New Black
Aside from just using nostalgic ideas, many brands have also achieved new levels of attention and success using a very nostalgic technique - direct mail. Direct mail marketing has become more and more popular in recent years, while email marketing appears to be slumping. Especially amongst younger consumers, direct mail is standing out and attracting attention, especially when compared to the avalanche of ignored emails most people receive on a daily basis. In fact, a recent study commissioned by the Royal Mail has shown that direct mail has a far more powerful effect on long term memory encoding than any other media - 32% higher than email and 72% higher than television. The fact is, people just don’t receive as much post anymore, and particularly for the younger generations, direct mail can be a welcome surprise, and far more tangible and personal than a run-of-the-mill email.
Creating a lasting impression and a memorable campaign is important to any brand, and it seems like direct mail marketing is clearly and effective way of doing this. It all comes back to establishing a rapport with customers, and in this day and age, every customer wants to feel unique, and feel like they are a part of something special and individual. According to the Royal Mail, 57% of people claim that receiving mail makes them feel more valued, and it has even been claimed that “sending mail creates a more genuine two-way relationship between brands and consumers”. In 2017, it’s clear the relationship between the brand and consumer has never been more integral to a brand’s success, and that the most successful brands connect with their customers on a personal and emotional level.
If the emotional benefits of direct mail aren’t convincing enough, studies have also shown that direct mail has a remarkably positive effect on sales. The numbers don’t lie - a recent study by the DMA (Direct Mail Association) indicates that direct mail actually generates 10% more customers than email, as well as a significantly higher response rate of 4.4% compared to 0.12% for email. This startling break from recent trends, and the surprisingly high level of engagement in direct mail from millennials - the so-called ‘digital natives’ - shows us that traditional marketing is back on top.
Bye Bye Buzzwords
We’re all guilty of it - slipping in a buzzword or two to spice up a boring brief or a nondescript newsletter. Maybe you once described something pretty ordinary as being “groundbreaking”, or referred to a team effort as “synergy”. But studies have shown these buzzwords are actually distancing brands from their customers, and a lot of the time using exciting and somewhat meaningless words can just be a way of disguising a lack of knowledge. What’s more, using generic buzzwords to describe a brand in this day and age can actually detract from any strong sense of brand identity or authenticity. Flashy slogans and shock tactics just aren’t hitting home anymore, as “without authenticity, even the best laid plans will fall flat” (Forbes). Like nostalgic marketing, brand honesty and integrity can help to humanise big brands, establishing a more emotional connection with consumers.
According to a recent article by the Huffington Post, millennials “are not moved by flashy ads, big promises and ‘wow’ factor. They want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions.”Corporate distrust is rife, especially amongst generation Y, and big brands now have to work harder than ever to establish a real relationship with potential customers. According to a recent poll by Havas, European consumers trust only 33% of brands, and a 2014 study conducted by Cohn & Wolfe indicated that customer’s top priority for big brands is that they should “communicate honestly about products and services”. This is clearly the case with brands such as McDonalds, who won back customer respect and attention after revealing the exact ingredients to their most popular products. For most people, brand honesty indicates a company that genuinely cares about both their products and their customers. The main takeaway is this - it’s not enough to be a cool brand anymore, or even a clever one - the one thing most customers seem to want most is a brand that cares.
It’s clear that simple is still effective. People just aren’t that impressed with bells and whistles anymore, instead customers are placing much more value on honesty and simplicity. Whether brands are reminiscing about the simpler times, or actually using more traditional or even ‘old school’ techniques to draw a crowd, the fact remains - old doesn’t necessarily mean outdated. In fact, old has never been cooler. Customers are responding to nostalgic ideas and old-school approaches, which are indicative of a bigger growing trend - brand honesty. Consumers are looking for brands they can trust, and companies that have a clear identity amongst the clutter are standing out and thriving.