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Follow the Science

By Ellen Fruchtman, President

How many times have you heard those three, simple words? Probably more often than you would like in 2020, and sadly continuing on in 2021. We can use science to guide us through our medical decisions. Conversely, there is no science to follow in the world of marketing. We get to follow research. Which, from time to time, is completely contradictory.  Results are so dependent on extremely limited sample sizes. If there was a science to political polling, as an example, we may actually get a presidential election right. As a marketer,  can you really believe antiquated ways to measure media, such as Nielsen ratings? It’s all we have. Compared to the days where the television stations depended on 400 human beings filling out a diary correctly, the system is far and away improved, but in no way perfect.

We are a business that negotiates traditional media based on third-party supplied numbers and data. And, very often that data is less than reliable. Digital is far more reliable in every which way. But, you have to admit, it’s a little creepy how much we really do know.  As reliable as some of that data can be in comparison, we are still somewhat guessing when people are truly in the market. We all surf around the internet. The new millennial pastime, so wonderfully portrayed in a Saturday Night Live skit about Zillow being new millennial porn is truer than ever. How many of them are truly in the market? Most likely, a very small percentage.  If you haven’t seen the skit, go look at it here. It’s hysterical.

As smart marketers, we have to put stock in research and numbers. But, we also put a tremendous amount of stock in simple, common sense. Common sense will prevail every time. For example, how many brides-to-be are picking up Brides magazine before they are engaged? This was the basis of an article I used over ten years ago! It was in an industry talk I did ten years prior to that! The extremely low numbers which justified my position came from Brides! And yet, I can still bet you will find a number of bridal and engagement ring brands gracing their pages. We can’t “ follow the science”. But you have to have some common sense and know a significant number of individuals cohabitate prior to getting engaged. And, that young women wouldn’t be caught dead leaving that magazine in their apartment or already purchased condo. Plus, who do you know in the age bracket of 25-34 not “shopping” online or trolling Instagram or Pinterest?

Jewelry brands are so behind the curve, it’s actually frightening. The biggest brands are still relying on advertising in print, magazines, and billboards. Even though the stats say otherwise. According to a 2020 survey done by Pew Research, (I know I just said surveys are flawed, but again, it’s all we have!), 16% of US adults got their news from newspapers and other sources. Only 3% of Americans cited print newspapers as their primary source of information. But your watch brands will support this endeavor for their own marketing and in their co-op offerings, correct? Over digital, correct? In the 1920s there were 2500 daily newspapers in the United States. Today, there are approximately 1260. Even Warren Buffett held on to the very end, but conceded in its demise and has acknowledged they are toast and will disappear. 

Magazines are not faring much better and are expected to continue to get smaller.  Revenue for the magazine and periodical publishing industry according to the WNIP (What’s New in Publishing) was expected to decline 13.8% due to our weaker economic climate. Institutions and subscriptions are falling. Again, if you don’t want to “follow the science”, just follow your instincts. Fewer people are picking up magazines in grocery stores (no one wants to touch them). Where can you find a newsstand? I receive FREE magazines all the time. Why? Because this increases their circulation numbers to their advertisers. And yet, there are many brands that simply will not allow much more than this medium for co-op. For some of your biggest brands, video, be it traditional or digital, is completely off the table. Even though it has tremendous impact and reach.

What about out-of-home media and billboards? They are surprisingly not expected to continue to take that big of a hit, although in 2020 there were far fewer people traveling on the roads overall. Based on a report in Bloomberg dated July 2020, Clear Channel Outdoor and Outfront Media revenues were still expected to decline up to 50%. That trend may change as things get back to normal. We have yet to see that happen. The brands? Most are in favor of outdoor advertising. Why not? You pay 50% of the cost and they receive 90% of the space.

The bottom line is this: The world of media is changing. In a very big way. Consumer habits have evolved in a very big way. Does that mean you shouldn’t occasionally run a magazine ad? Maybe not. Simply think about your customers and how they are using media. It’s never about what you watch, read, or browse. It is always about them. There may not be a tremendous amount of science, if any, to back you up, but there are dependable stats here and there, and a whole hell of a lot of pure, good, common sense.

Hey, brands…start to use it and support your retailers with more than newsprint, magazines, and billboards. And retailers, stand your ground and fight the good fight for more broadcast and digital.

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