Marketing to Half

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Most people have heard the quote from the great American merchant John Wanamaker who knew half the money he spent on advertising was wasted. The trouble was he didn't know which half. Almost a century later, this assessment still rings true for mass marketing. And it may be doubly true for affinity marketing.

Mass marketing by definition is promoting standardized products or services to a large target audience. An advantage of mass marketing is that the audience is huge (READ: everyone) and, therefore, easy to find. A disadvantage is the difficulty in delivering personalized messages that encourage people to act.

On the flip-side, affinity marketing is promoting an established brand's products or services to a niche audience. The challenge with affinity marketing is finding the right audience. However, once found, the audience has a greater propensity to act on the message.

Affinity marketing is a natural evolution of mass marketing and it offers broader business opportunities. Before jumping into a program though, marketers need to thoroughly explore the unique dynamics of reaching out to an affinity group. The price of failure is high, including ineffective marketing campaigns and, potentially, brand damage.

To execute an effective affinity marketing program, consider the following factors:

  • Business Model - A good business model enables companies to stay in the game while exploring the dynamics of their particular niche market. Resources need to be dedicated to efficiently finding the affinity group and then developing and testing messages. It may take some time to hit on the winning combination of offer and creative.
  • Creativity - Marketers need to think of ideas and concepts that wouldn't necessarily fit the model of mass marketing (e.g., broad messages for a broad audience). With affinity marketing, audiences are more discerning and more knowledgeable of the product and, therefore, only interested in specific types of benefits. Providing experience based benefits is a key component to ensure real value delivery and, ultimately, success. The effective marketer also has to be creative about how to find those who might be interested in the message, particularly when it comes to online marketing.
  • Discipline - The discipline of a good direct-response marketer is methodically testing and studying the data. Trust your results - they will lead you to the winning creative.

An example of leveraging these factors for success is the official fan club for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. The Official NASCAR Membership Club enables NASCAR's most loyal followers to achieve insider status in order to get closer to the sport. Members receive VIP treatment at NASCAR events, in-depth information and driver reports, exclusive merchandise deals, tickets and race travel offers, limited-edition merchandise and collectibles, discounts from NASCAR sponsors and licensees and access to NASCAR local chapter events. Through an effective affinity marketing program, ONMC members have access to unique experiences and customized benefits that continually engage their interests and reinforce the NASCAR brand image. From a business perspective, membership has doubled year-on-year.

Mr. Wanamaker identified a challenge for the marketing world - how to identify and target the right half. And niche marketing may not be for everyone. However, for those willing to commit, explore and understand the dynamics, affinity marketing offers the potential to reinforce brand recognition and bring broader opportunities to your business.

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