Archive for August, 2008

Death of the (Door-to-Door) Salesman

Posted in Integrated Marketing Thoughts with tags , , , on August 30, 2008 by matts76

On this week’s WVU Integrated Marketing Communications discussion board for my New and Emerging Media class, classmate Christina made a good point when the question was asked about which types of marketing we each felt would become obsolete or completely disappear over the next several years.  One of her choices was door-to-door selling.  She wrote:

I think this one will eventually fail just because people will become more unwilling than they already are to open the door to strangers. I have nothing that supports this hypothesis; it’s just a hunch. No one likes to be sold to; especially in this day and age when we are being sold to everywhere we turn around.

I think she brings up an interesting point that as time goes on and populations, especially in the U.S., become increasingly suspicious of people and afraid to open their doors to strangers, this form of marketing will fade away.  It’s unfortunate that as a society, the core concepts of trust and safety have eroded to the point that this traditional form of selling is almost unthinkable nowadays.

Interesting commentary that supports the statements made above can also be found on West Seattle Blog where area consumers who read and subscribe to the blog detail their own experiences with door-to-door hucksters (if I can still use such a ’50’s era, grandma-like term to describe less-than-reputable salesmen) who were trying to “sell” home security services.  The feedback presented makes me think of these remaining types of door-to-door sellers as being more of an offline version of banner ads promising crazy good mortgage rates if you bonk the right monkey on the head rather than purveyors of legitimate products.

Other parodies of the classic door-to-door salesman also make this form of selling tough to take seriously, as seen in this classic clip from Pee Wee’s Playhouse:

It seems as if the days of the suit-clad, fedora-wearing door-to-door salesman who arrives at the door, knocks, removes his hat, and politely asks “Is the lady of the house in?” have come and gone. 

In the glory days, homemakers would be shown miracle products from knives to vacuums that could handle any job and may have even shared a smoke with the traveling salesman.  After all, cigarettes were recommended by doctors for their smooth taste and calming effects.

It seems that classic door-to-door selling has, for the most part, been replaced by infomercials, which, are being replaced by online tosses for ordering products. There are even “As Seen on TV” stores in malls that allow consumers to decide which gimmicky products are right for them. Even Avon, which epitomizes the traditional door-to-door, woman-to-woman selling approach, has a significant web presence these days to support sales efforts.  They’ve even moved beyond just selling to philanthropic causes, like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and allow participants to easily set up a site for donations, as my wife has done here.  So, not only are Avon products able to be purchased online, but traditional door-to-door donation collections, for causes from the American Heart Association to Avon to Jerry’s Kids, have all moved online as well.

Sometimes, I Don’t Want to Be “Social”

Posted in Integrated Marketing Thoughts on August 26, 2008 by matts76

It seems that the debate continues as to the best ways to monetize (read: make a buck for you non-business jargon types) and effectively use marketing tactics to reach the millions of active participants of social networking sites.

As Kelly and Matt noted in recent discussions in our IMC course, social networking sites like MySpace give companies the opportunity to have a website without the hassle of building one from scratch — especially local, small businesses that have more of a grassroots following, for example.

However, as Matt asked in his discussion post, are social networking sites becoming too much an avenue for advertising – and blatant, obnoxious advertising at that? He cited the example fo visiting MySpace only to be greeted by an entire screen that was covered with bacon strips (an ad for Wendy’s Baconator sandwich).

I concur with these sentiments and feel that sometimes I just don’t want to be “social,” nor do I want to be bombarded with ads and marketing messages that I didn’t choose to receive, especially on a social networking site.  To be honest, I get tired of being “poked,” offered virtual beers when I would rather grab a real one from the fridge, or accept the latest app from a friend, like the lil’ green patch invitations for virtual plants that I often receive via Facebook.  Besides, what will my online friends think if I continue to accept such online tokens?  Worse, as a student of marketing, none of these types of interactions have made me want to leave my computer and go buy a daffodil, case of Guinness, or “poke” someone in real life at that moment.

I’ve always found the value of social networks to be that you can specifically filter with whom and what you interact.  So, for example, since I enjoy an occasional cigar, the Rolling Stones, and documentary films, I’m likely to seek out groups of like-minded individuals on Facebook. 

However, a banner or Google-type sidebar ad in the margins of the page that advertise the same subjects just don’t do it for me.  On a social networking site, let me find you, not you, as the marketer, trying to shove a message in my face under the guise of “targeting” me because of a group of preferences that I’ve established.

The root of the successes of MySpace and Facebook and LinkedIn is the convenience they offer in connecting me with friends and colleagues and like-minded people.  If marketers keep the connections aspect in mind, social networks can work as a marketing tool.  As an organization, put a page out there, and let your fans and consumers seek YOU out and “friend” you.  Don’t force it. 

The New York Times, via NYTimes.com, has partnered with LinkedIn to offer a unique social networking connection.  Their partnership allows for targeted results to be delivered to users.  For example, those working in the energy sector, as identified via LinkedIn, can receive energy-related business articles from the NYTimes.com site.  While convenient, and yet another way to get the NY Times and LinkedIn brands in front of people, the ultimate result still seems to be the ability to offer greater convenience to time strapped users.  How, then, can this be monetized and made into a true marketing venture without being intrusive? 

Some of the seemingly “cutting-edge”  (if you, the reader, will allow me to use such an overused, worn out term) widgets and apps that were the foundations of sites like Facebook have become annoying.  At the same time, companies that aren’t quite sure how to actually market with these types of apps, but still press onward with building them to prevent  anyone from saying they don’t have a “Web presence” as part of Web 2.0 or whatever the latest buzz term is, can actually be alienating consumers further.  Like social networking itself, let me, as the consumer, find you.  As a marketer, you’ll make more (virtual) friends that way, and, ultimately, get your message out in an unobtrusive, genuine way that’s more believable.