This week, J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich Partners, warned the American Association of Advertising Agencies about increasing consumer resistance to advertising.* Yankelovich recently released a study that showed 65 percent of consumers feel that more regulations and limits should be imposed on marketing, and 61 percent feel advertising is out of control. Smith advised marketers to hone their pitch to specific groups.

According to The New York Times, more than half the people surveyed said they “avoid buying products that overwhelm them with advertising and marketing” and a third said they “would be willing to have a slightly lower standard of living to live in a society without marketing and advertising.” Smith pointed to a growing gap between how people want to receive messages and how advertisers communicate with them.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Slick, sleazy advertising insults the buyer. And insulting the buyer is rarely a good strategy. Most people make purchases to satisfy needs. Physiological, safety, love, esteem, self-actualization needs — buying goes right back to Maslow’s Hierarchy. Whether they’re considering a tube of lipstick or an enterprise-wide software system, buyers want to think they’re making the right choice. If your advertising makes them feel uncomfortable, they’ll associate that discomfort with your product. It’s better to present buyers with a solution to their pains.

Most people like to buy – but hate to be “sold”. Good marketing campaigns consider and address the pains buyers feel. Buyers want solutions, not products, services or technologies. Companies need to understand buyers, then wrap things around their products and services to turn them into whole solutions. And those “things” can include extra products and services, messaging and promotions, distribution strategies, and options for buying. And, once buyers purchase, companies need to continue listening to them, then refine customer service, support, marketing and products to meet buyer needs. In doing so, companies can grow and retain good customers while containing service and support costs and managing buyer remorse.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.

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