What we learn from one-to-one marketing cannot be underestimated, not just in order to create customized and personal future interactions, but to acquire qualitative knowledge that is impossible to achieve with traditional research methodologies.
The emphasis with one-to-one marketing rests squarely on an interaction that elicits a dialogue between marketer and consumer. A conversation is a two-way street, or at least that is what conventional wisdom suggests. Yet for traditional advertisers and marketers, their dialogue with the consumer has never been about reciprocity.
A dialogue presupposes it is done with someone (or something). How apt is it to find that marketing is done to someone, as in, “companies are marketing to the Nexus generation” or “we resent being marketed to.” Have we ever seen a sentence like “our products are marketed with the Nexus generation” or “we respect being marketed with?” Of course not. By inventing the verb “to market,” traditional marketers and advertisers have jettisoned the dialogue and taken over the conversation.
Take, for instance, the phenomenon of the Apple stores in the US. Almost as an afterthought, Apple decided to install a number of tech ambassadors – the company calls them, perhaps presumptuously, Geniuses – behind a sleek, bar-like counter in most of the 100-plus stores in the US.
The Genuises are clad in cool black uniforms and offer anyone that walks in the store – Mac or PC users — technical service and advice. So far, according to a USA Today dispatch, over 100,000 people visit the Genuises every week. And the stores represent nearly 50 percent of Apple’s retail sales. The stores are setting a scorching pace for revenue growth. Apple stores were on track to generate $1.2 billion in annual sales, compared to Apple’s $8.3 billion fiscal revenue. Fascinatingly, Apple serves only about 3 percent of the computing public.
The genius of the Genius marketing lies in the experiential aspects of customer service. The Geniuses are one-to-one ambassadors who engage in friendly, almost neighborly, interactions with a consumer who is deeply interested in the product and brand.
“Half of the people who walk into the stores are Windows users,” the USA Today story quotes an analyst. “They come in not because they want to switch but because the stores are different and so inviting. Do they walk out with a Mac? Probably not. But they do leave with an iPod, which they might not have done otherwise.”
The intimacy created by using real people to connect with other real people may not seem to be revolutionary, but when measured against the prevalent forms of intrusive marketing increasingly deployed by traditional marketers, it is clear how something like the notion of the Geniuses becomes an extraordinary tool to reach and influence the consumer.