Affinity brands don’t “interrupt”

You’ve seen the pronouncements, blazoned in so many email blasts and blog posts.

“Traditional marketing is dead.”

“Consumers are skipping interruptive ads.”

“No one reads the newspaper, listens to the radio, or watches TV anymore.”

The apostles of lead-generation marketing (variously called permission, content, and inbound marketing) have declared a fatwa against seemingly every other marketing technique in existence, except SEO, blogging and social media.

And they make some valid points, although none that are original or even new.

They are correct that most traditional marketing lacks coherent strategy. Most products and services are commodities competing upon price. And most advertising messages are irrelevant, inopportune and, well, boring. That’s why consumers have ignored most marketing for years.

Taking restroom breaks during commercials and tossing junk mail are not exactly new behaviors.

So why is most marketing so ineffective? Because most of it, in terms of volume, is conducted by amateurs, such as your local car dealer. And most professionals kowtow to their clients whose decisions are committee-sourced. (See more at “7 reasons most advertising fails.”)

However, the lead-generation marketers, in their blood frenzy, have overlooked one important truth: Some of the most loyal, and therefore, best consumers like being “interrupted” by their brands.

Some brands, called affinity brands, interrupt without interrupting. They inspire a community of diehard evangelists, drawn together by a shared goal or belief system. Oft-cited examples include Whole Foods, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Harley-Davidson, even Moleskine.

The experience an affinity brand provides and its marketing are so integrated, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.

Take Patagonia‘s “Don’t Buy this Jacket” ad, which espouses the company’s position on environmentalism. Is it marketing? I don’t know, but doesn’t it make you want to buy the jacket?

Sure, brands like Patagonia and Apple are the gold standard for loyalty, the standard to which all marketers should aspire to. It’s the same standard to which lead-generation marketers will be held accountable as well.

Whether traditional or not, the marketer who succeeds will be the one who engages the customers with such relevance they are not even aware of the channel.

This entry was posted in advertising, interactive marketing, lead-generation marketing, loyalty, search engine marketing, social media.

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