Saturday, September 26, 2009

Economic Darwinism and the Marketing Struggle for Attention

Economic Darwinism manifests itself in a marketing struggle for attention. One of the enemies of attention is the development of immunity to habituated stimuli, and email advertising may be on the verge. This may explain the marketing interest in social media – the hope that people are not yet immune to it as they are to email. This would be consistent with adaptation level theory (see Hawkins, 2007, p 293), “over time we adapt or habituate to it [in our case frequent email from a vendor] and begin to notice it less.”

Poulos (2009, p. 1) contends that the deciding factor in email success or failure is the strategic planning that goes into the entire campaign: segmentation, objectives, tactics and so on. He cites research about the value of a list that is both opt-in and highly targeted. He finally advises us to implement the Sender Policy Framework in our email directory technology (see Sender Policy Framework). This is designed to prevent spam.

For habituated stimuli in other media, look at Rosser Reeves' Minute Maid or Anacin TV campaigns. Minute Maid complained about the deathly repetition in its orange juice campaign, to no good effect. Twitchell (1996, p 29) notes that such repetition "will no longer be tolerated" in TV advertising. Based on our readings this week, repetitious (too frequent email) may not be either.

An Attention Economy model has been presented to explain attention immunity in marketing with the utility theory of neo-classical economics. The unfinished argument in economics over the sui generis of the market now finds new application in the potential of Internet technologies. Is it natural for the market to be governed by a higher authority, the state, or is it a stand-alone, self-regulating entity? Likewise with email and social media. They are connected to brand planning but to what extent should they be governed by it?

The Cluetrain Manifesto sees the old marketing as a procession of charlatans who no longer have an audience. The new technology opens a free conversation to form markets directly between empowered members of a firm and the community they serve.

Most new parades, I think, start out solemnly and with dignity, buttressed by 95 theses or whatever, but end up in turmoil and rancor. Email is an example and so is blogging. Microsoft has employees talking directly to customers on blogs. In fact, Joe Cox reports (see Microsoft Watch) that Microsoft has over 5,000 employee blogs and quite often Microsoft makes major product announcements only on these blogs, not incorporating one or another of its marketing agencies.

John Cass is a marketer and a researcher at Forrester and has made a counterintuitive finding (see his blog ). Dell and Macromedia use a dedicated approach, and control communications that uses email and social media rather than take the wide-open approach of Microsoft. Dell and Macromedia are doing quite well with such an approach.

Cass concludes that anarchy does not work. While the Cluetrain Manifesto helped focus attention on change that is needed for marketing communications because of the Internet, "[it] did not provide a really effective road map for how to open up a company.”

Marketing communications is a discipline. By focusing their email and social media efforts in smaller groups capable of effective marketing communications (i.e. people trained in IMC), and providing them with support, Dell and Macromedia have been effective. More so than Microsoft. I think the lesson this week is that email is governed by a higher authority, the principles of marketing communications and marketing platform of the firm.

Hawkins, Del, David Mothersbaugh and Roger Best (2007). Consumer Behavior. McGraw-Hill/Irwin. Retrieved on September, 25, 2009 from

Poulos, Alex (May 4, 2009). Email Marketing – Still Friend or Foe? (Part I). Retrieved on September 23, 2009 from

Twitchell, James (1996). Adcult USA. Columbia.

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