At dinner the other night, the conversation turned to carpet ads. Why, someone asked, do retailers keep advertising carpet ads when most people only buy carpet once every 7 – 10 years?
Because, they don’t all buy them at once, I reminded them.
A brief explanation of interruption theory followed. Because so many retailers have neither the inclination or the resources to build and sustain relationships with their diverse customer bases, they basically rely on a marketing approach that pivots on informed chance.
Reach and frequency advertising models depend on reaching a profiled consumer at a specific moment when that consumer might have an interest and a need for the product. It’s a scatter-gun approach (despite what the media planners might tell us) that relies on a machine-gun barrage of noise and repetition. Most of the time it has the majority reaching for the remote control to turn off the noise because whatever’s being talked about is “N/A” to their needs right now.
But brands keep beaming ads in the hope that one day customer and brand will meet at a random intersection of supply and demand.
So what can brands with long sales cycles or infrequent purchase cycles do to lift their sales? The most common response is to lift the noise levels even higher by advertising even more – using ever more urgent ads. But a much better way to increase the chance of intersections in my opinion lies in convening an holistic product range that people intersect with more frequently.
So instead of only selling something occasionally, brands need to introduce products and services into their range that people want more frequently. That way those customers have more reasons to intersect with the brand across a range of timeframes – some occasional, some regular.
Apple carries this model out to perfection. Consumers might only buy a laptop or a new phone once every few years. But between those purchases, Apple encourages them to make smaller investments in things like an operating system, and micro-purchases like songs or apps at just a handful of dollars each. And in between those activities, they dot presentations and announcements to maintain buzz. (Which, incidentally, is another important point about intersections – they can’t just happen at purchase time if they are to retain value.)
Apple stays in touch with customers, and keeps them in touch with the brand, through multiple intersecting moments at various price points and – this is important – non-price points. As a result, the brand feels dynamic, exciting, rewarding and habitual – and consumers cultivate strong loyalty and interest.
Multiple intersections raise awareness, offer multiple access points and bring brands to life.
So if it’s a long time between interactions for your brand and customers, rethink your intersections. Give people more things to buy, more reasons to buy them, more timeframes within which to buy them, more price points to buy them at – and stagger and scaffold those offerings so that they feel coherent, consistent and desirable.