Message from Our Marketing Director

The forces of transformation are sweeping through the marketing world, signifying an epochal moment as important as the shift from printing presses to broadcast studios. That’s driving the urgent need to implement new approaches for effectively targeting consumers in specific market segments and – equally critical – infusing campaigns with personal touch elements valued by consumers. Below, UM Marketing’s Dan Balter discusses today’s marketing challenges and UM’s response in helping clients effectively meet them.

What do you see as the big challenge facing marketing professionals today?

It stems from the decreasing effectiveness of traditional media, due to saturation and audience fragmentation. For example, look at the Super Bowl. Twenty years ago, $7,800 would reach one million viewers with a 30-second spot. Last year, one million viewers would cost you $27,000 – and that’s accounting for inflation.

Traditional media also face the challenge in connecting with hard-to-reach market segments. And I expect this trend will only intensify. Consider what today’s 8-18 year-olds are exposed to. They spend almost seven hours a day in a multiple media environment … television, digital games, Internet, satellite radio, MP3 players and other forms of communications. How do you effectively contact and connect with them?

From our experience, audience fragmentation is re-shaping the way many marketing campaigns are being strategized and executed. And that’s very refreshing – and very necessary in today’s marketplace.

What’s changing for traditional media?

There’s certainly a significant place for traditional mass media in advertising. However, audience fragmentation has created the need for fresh options in effectively and surgically targeting and reaching market segments. Furthermore, marketing professionals are looking for new and unique approaches in connecting with their target audiences, preferably in ways that are personally meaningful to their consumers. And that’s where we’re directing our promotional marketing efforts. In our case, this includes activities like sampling, events, grassroots marketing campaigns, unique advertising and giveaways. Creative, promotional marketing really needs to be developed into a key building block in any company’s marketing strategy.

What’s special about promotional marketing activities?

UM’s promotional marketing programs build a personalized, relevant and effective relationship with your consumers, whether the campaign is local, regional or national in scope. We help the many brand managers who are building brand equity through locally-based promotional activities that are part of a larger, national campaign. Companies are reaching out in unique and targeted ways, while developing a relationship that’s more personal.

Brand managers are very receptive to what I’d call “in-your-face” promotional programs. Again, many are executed at the local level, but fit within the context of a national campaign targeting a specific demographic, i.e., young moms or college undergrads. Our promotional campaigns provide our clients with huge reach and great results. We achieve this by literally targeting 2,000 dorm rooms, or thousands of fitness clubs, or whatever the channel and activity is for reaching the particular demographic that brand managers are targeting.

Why do promotional campaigns appeal to consumers?

Consumers get something of high, perceived value from these personal touch campaigns, say, a sample of deodorant, or a promotional item like a laundry bag. We deliver a highly personalized win/win experience for both the brand and the consumer. That’s the type of turnkey promotional campaigns UM executes in the U.S. and Canada. It’s about effectively reaching and connecting with one person at a time, where that consumer lives, works or plays – on a national scale! Promotional programs like this represent a unique approach to connecting with a national audience. We feel they’re more effective, particularly for targeting a market segment that consists of a specific community of interest.

UM puts a lot of emphasis on personal touch marketing. Why is that?

It goes back to the point about fragmentation. Building a relationship with people through our programs generates great results. Why? Because we’re providing a targeted group of consumers with something they really, really want. That’s critical for achieving high trial and conversion rates. Don’t discount the impact of someone personally receiving a sample or some other item, particularly when they have the choice to say no to your offer.

Following up on that last thought, can you give some examples of the powerful impact of personal touch marketing?

Take feminine hygiene products for young women. We may recommend sampling through hygiene classes in high schools, in a very discreet manner. Because the nurse and health educators have previously covered these topics, such a sampling program is seen as educational and helpful – it’s not perceived as a marketing exercise.

The product, as much as the consumer, has a personality. What is it? Where would it like to be distributed? If someone was to receive something in an awkward way, in an inappropriate environment, it could actually be counter-productive.

UM’s promotional programs match the product personality with the consumer’s, creating a highly effective touch point where consumers are most likely to try your product.

How has UM Marketing structured itself to help its clients connect with their target demographic?

Our differentiation is based on helping clients reach people in a very targeted and unique way. We help clients break down their demographic and reach people where, for example, they’re brushing their teeth. There’s a very task-oriented aspect to the exercise. If your product is potato chips, we want to hand out those potato chips where you’re most likely to eat them, such as a large, outdoor event. We connect the usage of your product with the activity of people and where they do it. At a molecular level, it’s connecting with someone in a very personal and meaningful manner. Meaningful in the sense that they’re going to need or want that product, at that moment – soap in fitness centers, right after they work out.

What primary value do you provide in helping clients leverage their campaign performance?

Value for our clients is translated into high trial and conversion rates, achieved through targeted, very cost-effective programs. It starts with understanding the personality of their consumers. Once we have that, we can recommend the optimal distribution channel, based on what the clients’ strategy is. Channels will vary depending on marketing strategies. Do you want to hand out a brochure? A sample? Do a product trial? In a sense, it’s very similar to television. Different shows are created for different demographics. Our channels are also created for different demographics.

We pride ourselves in providing very unique, targeted channels that really match products with consumers on a 10 out of 10 scale. The match is really key. We target the client’s consumers in an environment where they’re extremely likely to use the product. We don’t try to hand out soap on a subway.

Let’s get more granular about UM’s offering to clients. How many distribution channels do you have and what demographics do they encompass?

We offer 40-plus national distribution channels in Canada and the United States. The demographics range from the pre-teen years to seniors, so they encompass the entire North American demographic. We offer the world, but we can slice and dice it. Many clients are surprised at how granular we can get in reaching significant audiences. Clients are impressed by the reach and uniqueness of our channels, which they may be seeing for the first time [distribution channels].

Using your distribution channels, how precisely can you define a target demographic?

Regarding the precision of our targeting, we can, for example, reach 25-34 year-old affluent males in fitness centers, nationally. Another example is low-income, single moms who use Laundromats.

We can further break down a demographic by profiles, such as income and activity. But you can further dissect these channels to identify people who are, say, affluent, love to shop, and are very fashion-oriented. If you’re selling a detergent that works on high-end, expensive fabric, this demographic could be a perfect match for you.

In one sense we’re like the web – we can reach very targeted audiences. We’d argue that our offline promotions are just as targeted. Ours are often more effective because we’re making a personal connection, rather than a virtual one.

Do you have the flexibility to target small, local audiences as well as national audiences?

We do target local, regional and national audiences, but most of our efforts are aimed at targeting local audiences to drive the outcome of a larger, national campaign. We can define a demographic down to a zip or postal code. Our reach ranges from 100,000 to tens of millions.

What type of campaign feedback do you provide?

It’s quite extensive. We offer photographic documentation, video documentation, signed affidavits, and feedback forms signed and filled out by each representative handing out promotional items at an individual location. That provides qualitative and quantitative feedback for post-campaign analysis … where the items were distributed, how they were distributed, and comments from people who actually received the samples. At the campaign’s completion, clients will receive a binder with feedback documents from each location. If 300 locations were involved in the promotional campaign, then the binder will contain 300 feedback documents. Brand managers really get a sense for what happened at each location.

What’s the reaction of clients to such extensive feedback?

Clients love it because they get a sense for what worked and where they can make future improvements. They get to see, and feel, and touch the actual campaign, through they way we provide feedback. They can flip to a page and read about a location that distributed 500 samples out of their 500,000 samples. Breaks it down to a more granular level. Today, that’s what the game is all about – reach and effectiveness.