In recent years, I am rather over-sensitive whenever anyone asks me for my telephone number, my address, the number of wives I have, and their names to boot. The consumer in me is rather sensitive to part with information that can be used by the clever marketer in the Indian marketplace.
Avoid being on databases. And that’s the consumer ‘mantra’ I seem to profess of late. I shirk away angrily from all those data capture tactics that clever marketers have been using for donkey’s years to get basic consumer data that can be built upon and nurtured into a sale.
I run miles when confronted at the shopping mall by the guys who are handing out coupons that promise you the attractive prize of a weekend getaway from it all. All you need to do is fill in your name, address and monthly income data on the slip and drop it into a box!
I am more worried as to what will happen thereafter. I know for sure that these slips will find their way into the trays of a data entry operator who will religiously enter my data onto a database of similar names, addresses and incomes. Once on the database, I can rest assured of many things. One is a lifetime supply of unending junk mail. And another is a set of telephone calls from salesmen of every kind who sell items of every other kind.
I shirk away from participating in contests on airplane boarding cards. I run from people who are ostensibly calling in participants for sweepstakes of every other kind. I run from databases!
Intrusive marketing makes you run. Mass-mailed stuff makes you run. Marketing junk, doled out by the insensitive marketer who believes mass bombarding a database is an excellent way of hitting at the right customer somewhere or the other, makes one worry.
A whole set of consumers in India still enjoy it all, it seems. The stage where mass-mailings irritate and raise the hackles of the consumer in question, is yet to happen. All the same, there are many sensitive souls, who are wary of this kind of marketing stuff that spells the death knell of direct marketing and its persuasive ways. There are many who just take a look at the envelope and its gaily printed themes, its laser-printed address labels, it’s style of stamping or franking, and decide to consign the letter in question to the limbo of a brief existence in the official dustbin for such purpose.
Intrusive marketing happens not through the mail alone. The horror-guy who stalks you as you walk down the street looking for your dream oven, the guy who pushes in front of your face a set of six socks selling cheap, the girl who thrusts her foot into your front door-step selling that miracle sanitary napkin just as you are about to lapse into an intellectual debate on the state of the philosophical mind in India, are also pointers to how intrusive marketing can get.
Intrusive marketing begins when the marketer doesn’t do his homework right. Intrusive marketing thrives when the marketer believes the sensitive consumer does not exist. Intrusive marketing is all about the boor-headed marketing man who doesn’t give a damn about all the misses his mass-attack plan generates to the chagrin of the consumer behind such a miss.
Marketing men can very easily give a bad name to a process, a tool and a device that can well nigh be used to good advantage in other circumstances. Take for instance the case of direct marketing and its insensitive use. My little five year-old found himself on a database the other day. This brilliant company that manufactures the best of the repertoire of whiskeys possible, sent in a mailer to little Dhruv, telling him the story of how one can hear the music played by more than ninety-nine pipers when one has imbibed what is touted. The story reads well. Only the target-respondent is rather misplaced! This sure must have been some malted beverage (of the brown and white kind) mailing list finding its way into the offices of a double malt!
The tool of the captive presentation format, currently used to levels of over-kill by marketers of the holiday resorts of the time-sharing kind, is another of such devices that is lending intrusive marketing of its ilk a bad name. In this case, the consumer is invited on the basis of a database gathered through shopping malls and cinema theatres, where husband and wife are kept captive for two hours and fed positive information about the product in hand. At the end of it, a small gift is parted with. More often than not, the two-hour brainwash invariably results in a positive sale! Such is the power of the persuasive set of presentations that happen. Post-purchase dissonance and its handling is a different matter altogether though!
Intrusive marketing is the name of the game that walks into people’s lives and creates a marketing whirlpool of sorts. Temporary whirlpools that tend to tease, titillate and trouble. Trouble enough to cause that intrusive sale or buy!
Will the marketer continue to intrude? Or will he talk the language of the permission marketer who enters into the life of the consumer only on invitation? RSVP (respondez sil vous plait)! If you please!
*Harish Bijoor is vice president, marketing, Tata Coffee Limited, Bangalore.