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不打广告战,赢得客户心

Shelley DuBois 2011年09月27日

争夺消费者心理认知空间的竞争日益激烈,而最有效的品牌推广策略,或许就是退出广告战,另辟蹊径。

    放眼望去,我们周围到处都是商家在推销自己的产品。大公司试图做到面面俱到——大到时代广场的户外广告牌,小到精致的Twitter网上广告——目的就是为了把它们的品牌印到你的大脑中。

    争夺消费者心理认知空间的竞争异常激烈,尤其是当今的消费者越来越挑剔。面对铺天盖地的广告攻势,对于许多公司而言,最有效的策略或许是退出竞争,另辟蹊径。

    以入选2011年增长最快公司榜单(Fortune's 2011 fastest-growing companies list)的Signature Bank为例,该银行并没有进行任何广告宣传,但业务却出现显著增长。2001年公司成立之初,资产仅为5,000万美元,而今年公司旗下资产已达到131亿美元。过去一个季度,银行净收入达到366亿美元,比去年增长了64%。

    这家银行在许多方面尤其适合无广告策略:它以纽约的小型企业为目标客户,只须通过该行提供的任何一种联系方式,客户便可享受该行的所有服务。给Signature银行打个电话,客户便可确定企业的信用额度,紧接着,客户就可以为购置汉普顿斯的房子从该行申请融资。银行CEO乔•德保罗表示,这些客户不太可能通过洋基队(Yankee)比赛现场的广告来选择银行。相反,他们会相信朋友和同事们的推荐。

    美国弗吉尼亚大学达顿商学院(University of Virginia's Darden School of Business)教授拉杰库马尔• 文卡特桑认为,实际上,这才是增加客户最有效的方式。他说,与通过广告吸引的客户相比,通过口口相传获得的客户能为公司带来更多的利润。社会关系就是一种强力粘合剂。

    Signature银行在纽约的高端客户尤其如此——没有广告宣传,反而为银行打上了精英主义的光环。文卡特桑称,事关财务决策,“人们往往希望能获得与众不同的服务,以便获得更好的投资回报。”在大银行铺天盖地的广告中,Signature另辟蹊径,使银行蒙上一丝神秘的色彩,看上去更像是俱乐部,反倒带来了更多优势。

    杜克大学(Duke University)市场营销与心理学专业教授加万•菲茨西蒙斯表示:“想想我们一周会看到多少关于财务服务的广告,尤其是在曼哈顿。可谓数不胜数,而且,几乎都俗不可耐地宣扬自己‘信誉卓著’、‘严肃认真’。”为什么就不能老老实实做到“信誉卓著”和“严肃认真”,然后等待口碑的机传播呢?

    菲茨西蒙斯预测,越来越多的公司将会采取这样的策略。退出广告战,公司可能会在与潜在客户进行的交流中失去主动权。虽然存在这样的风险,但消费者的大脑中已经塞满了形形色色的广告,更多的宣传不见得更好。菲茨西蒙斯称:“事实是,消费者一看到广告,就会自然而然地产生一种抵触心理。”

    菲茨西蒙斯的研究显示,对广告主来说,最好的结果也不外乎锦上添花,也就是借助广告略微强化一下消费者对本来已经有好感的品牌产生的正向情感关联。

    当然,许多广告公司依然在追求这种正面的推动作用,因为它有时候不失为一种强大的工具。在广告业参与度较高的市场端,营销高手们通常会通过社交媒体进行病毒式营销,并为这一“营销圣杯”展开激烈竞争。虽然模式无法预测,但有时,广告主可能会无意中击中一个“甜点”,所推出的广告或宣传活动能够获得消费者的喜爱,于是消费者会主动将链接发送给朋友,发布微博,或发布在Facebook上,自愿替广告主进行传播。

    去年,宝洁公司(Proctor & Gamble)在这一点上大获成功。当时,宝洁公司邀请演员以赛亚•穆斯塔法为公司的Old Spice男士香水推出了一个互动社交媒体宣传活动。文卡特桑称,这种方式有诸多优点,尤其是社交媒体广告宣传仅需要投入少量资金。他说,公司可以更加灵活,尝试不同选择。只要有一种选择有效,它们就会为公司带来快速增长。这种情况并不鲜见。

    而另一方面,最传统的品牌化策略也正卷土重来,再度流行:那就是,提供高品质的产品或服务,之后守株待兔,等着客户自动上门。

    译者:阿龙/汪皓

    Look around, anywhere really, and you'll see the upshot of somebody trying to sell you something. Big companies try to cover all the bases -- everything from billboards in Times Square to pithy tweets -- to hit the algorithm that will put their brand on your brain.

    It's a rat race, vying for all that mental space, especially when customers are growing more skeptical. The result of the ad deluge is that, for some companies, the best strategy is to opt out.

    Take Signature Bank (SBNY), one of the companies on Fortune's 2011 fastest-growing companies list. Without any advertising, it has grown significantly, from about $50 million when it launched in 2001 to $13.1 billion in assets this year. This past quarter, the bank had a net income of $36.6 billion, up by 64% from the previous year.

    In many ways, the bank is especially suited for the no-ad tactic: it targets New York-based small businesses, and offers clients one point of contact for all banking services. A client can call Signature to set up a line of credit for a business and then ask about financing a house in the Hamptons in the next breath. These aren't customers who chose their bank based off of ads at a Yankee's game, says CEO Joe DePaolo. Instead, they rely on recommendations from friends and associates.

    That's actually the most effective way to reel people in, says Rajkumar Venkatesan, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. Customers acquired through word of mouth are more profitable for the company, over time, than customers who join through other types of advertising, he says. The social bond is strong glue.

    That's especially true for people like Signature's high-end New York clients -- the lack of advertising plays into the company's aura of elitism. Especially regarding financial decisions, Venkatesan says, "People want access to something that everyone doesn't have so they can get better returns." Opting out amid a glut of big bank advertisements gives Signature a secret, club-like edge.

    "Think about how many advertisements for financial services you see in a typical week, especially in Manhattan. Crazy amounts of them, and all of them are about being 'reputable,' and 'serious,'" says Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University. Why not just be reputable and serious and let your business spread organically?

    More companies will start to do this, Fitzsimons predicts, even though businesses that back out of the ad race risk ceding control of the conversation. Still, people's brains are so saturated with advertisements that more exposure isn't necessarily better. "The bottom line is, now a consumer sees an ad and their defensive mechanisms automatically come up," says Fitzsimons.

    In fact, according to Fitzsimons' research, the best result that an advertiser can hope for is to nudge us in the direction we were already going -- reaffirming a slightly positive association with a brand that we already liked.

    Certainly, many marketers are chasing that positive nudge, which can be a powerful tool. At the more engaged end of the advertising spectrum, marketers often vie for the Holy Grail that is viral marketing via social media. The formula is unpredictable, but sometimes, advertisers hit a sweet-spot and make an ad or start a campaign that we like so much we spread it ourselves by sending links to friends or tweeting or posting it to Facebook.

    Proctor & Gamble (PG) struck gold with this last year, when they created an interactive social media campaign for Old Spice around actor Isaiah Mustafa. The method certainly has its merits, says Venkatesan, especially since many social media ad campaigns require very little capital. Companies can afford to be agile, he says, and try different options. When one sticks, they encourage its rapid growth, already in progress.

    But at the other end of the marketing spectrum, the oldest branding strategy of all is making a comeback: deliver a quality product or service and sit back and wait for the customers to come to you.

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