The New Push-Pull Marketing
Online and digital promotion has completely changed the definition of push-pull marketing. Marketing strategies such as emotional appeals that were sound for decades are now obsolete. For those unfamiliar with the terms, the textbook definitions of push and pull marketing are roughly as follows:
- Push marketing refers to marketing through the supply chain—specifically by incentivizing wholesalers and distributors—rather than marketing directly to consumers.
- Pull marketing is marketing directly to the consumer.
But marketers have broadly been referring to push marketing as what happens when the company seeks out the consumer and pull as what happens when the consumer seeks out the company.
Online, push creates a following and buzz, while pull creates awareness and—hopefully—demand. Websites and blogs are pull; they create awareness and keep the company brand in front of consumers without aggressive marketing. But without the promotion of push, websites and blogs would never get off the ground.
It used to be that successful marketers tried to strike a balance between push and pull marketing, but online the push is all but gone.
Most consumers will reject overt marketing online and most companies know this. They know this, but few can resist spinning facts their way. They don’t see the harm and they don’t see the point of creating marketing tools that don’t market the way they know and love. But research results are very clear about what consumers respond to online: education, not advertising.
So what does the online pull look like? It looks like you’re helping consumers, because you actually are.
Consumers want to learn. It’s really that simple. The drive to learn and grow—to be a better person—is a basic building block of psychological health. Online consumers gravitate toward sites and tools that help them do that. They inherently know the difference between truth & spin and altruism & self-interest.
Online, pull marketing is likely to be much more fruitful than push marketing attempts only as long as the pull message is not contaminated with a sales pitch. A company can post a compelling article about how to shop for a home alarm system and then kill the whole piece by finishing with "someone may be breaking into your home right now."
When is it OK to push? Consumers understand that some push marketing is essential at the beginning of a campaign. You won’t turn off most people by sending out a regular email blast announcing and promoting a new blog and you won’t turn off most people by sending out email and Twitter promotions that those people will predictably be interested in—a sale preview announcement to opt-in email customers. But choose selectively where you need to push and pull wisely.