The Power of Pull

Push marketing methods are no longer delivering the goods, and savvy marketers are coming to understand the importance of pulling their audiences in.

By Rudo Botha

It’s no secret that traditional marketing methods are no longer enjoying the kind of effectiveness that they once did. Audiences today are ten times more informed, a hundred times more exposed and – as a consequence – a thousand times more jaded. Moreover, they have more choice than ever before in the marketing messages they wish to engage with. If they don’t want to listen to your message, they can simply delete the email, block the SMS, turn the magazine page, or pause live TV until the ad break is over.

Generation X is not interested in being told what to buy, wear, eat, drink or what we consider to be cool. Never before has a generation been quite so bored – by good product, good advertising and good design. This has caused no small amount of panic among those marketers who only understand traditional ‘push’ methods of getting their brand across.

Living in a world that’s full of empty brand promises and saturated with marketing messages, Generation X is hungry to be inspired, to be moved, to experience something real and authentic. “Don’t tell me – touch me” is their message. Doing so effectively has less to do with the media used and the tactics employed, and everything to do with the approach.

It’s an approach that calls first and foremost for a complete and honest shift to the consumer.

Effective pull marketing all starts with the audience in mind. This might sound obvious but it’s surprising how many marketers think primarily of the product they want to sell, and only consider the audience in terms of how best to push said product onto them. Rather start making a real effort to understand what makes them tick and most importantly, what it is that they really want.

Savvy brands are coming to realising the immense power of such ‘pull’ marketing – and harnessing it to enormous advantage. It’s more subtle and elegant, and therefore requires a softer, more skilled touch, but if you manage to get it right, it can deliver the kind of brand loyalty and engagement that push marketers only dream of achieving.

Take Coca-Cola for example. Although it learned its lesson the hard way, the brand has once again established itself as symbolic of youth and optimism. Once synonymous with the Baby Boomers, Coca-Cola had been left behind by a generation that had grown up. Fortunately, management at Coca-Cola realised the need to reconnect with the new youth generation across the world. Their starting point of what became known as the M5 project, was the desire to touch young people in a way that would spark an interest in Coca-Cola, but instead of assuming they had the ‘cool’ market cornered, they started investigating what really moves their target audience. What they came up with, unsurprisingly, was music and art. REX was part of 6 design groups from 5 continents that were briefed to share their own unique visions of optimism and to re-unite Coke with the wonder of art, music and creativity. The result was an integrated campaign that bundled art, video short stories, an internet portal, merchandise, global events, club experiences and a new-design Coke bottle-come-art-canvas that reached out and touched a new generation. M5’s internet site received 180, 000 hits prior to its launch and 3.5 million Coke bottles were sold in the world’s top 200 night-cubs within 8 months. All of which was achieved through project elements that reflected no formal Coca-Coal branding of any recognisable kind. It allowed the biggest brand in the world to move into a brave new territory of marketing, and in so doing, won the hearts and minds of a new generation of consumers.

Honda’s ‘Grrr’ advert is another example of how pull marketing can work to a brand’s ongoing advantage. Instead of employing traditional ‘push’ methods to deliver a hard-sell of a vehicle, the advert rather focused on giving people what they wanted – a cleaner, more environmentally-kind diesel engine. The advert struck such a cord with the public when it launched that almost everyone who’s seen it knows the ‘story behind the ad’ about the Honda engineer who hated diesel engines and resisted designing one for the company, until he realised he could change the diesel engine and make it better. The advert won numerous awards (it was voted the best commercial at Epica (d’Or) 2004, British Television Advertising Awards (BTAA), Advertising Creative Circle Award, International Andy Awards, D&AD Awards, Golden Award of Montreux, The One Show, CLIO Awards, Cannes Lions and Cresta Awards), but far more importantly, it fixed Honda as an authentically caring and human brand in the minds of the consumer. In a world exhausted by cynicism and worried by the threat of global warming, Honda hit precisely the right note. So attractive and relevant was the advert’s message of ‘Hate Something, Change Something, Make Something Better’ that it literally pulled people towards the brand, creating a magnetism that drew not only attention and interest, but loyalty and ongoing engagement.


The ideal – Styling

The experience – Mine. Made by me for me

What these brand interventions have in common is a refreshing break away from paralysing strategies and a move towards the creation of interesting and inspiring experiences for the consumer. Its clearly working for the brands that know how to pull it off. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to entice people to look at and engage with your brand?


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