No offense!

No offense to online freaks/bloggers/social media marketeers/fans!

Quite often, I am struck – I think it’s the right word – by the acceptance of managers and marketing directors that, today, the online environment is all that matters, namely:

1. To run “branding” campaigns exclusively online (blogs, Facebook, etc.);
2. To conduct national and well-targeted market research exclusively online;
3. To use social media in an abusive way I might say – with an obsession for likes, polls, causes and so on;
4. To set goals of notoriety and sales using (almost) exclusively the online environment;
5. To believe that if they appear with paid posts on commercial blogs with a large audience they have hit the jackpot in terms of audience/reach/notoriety/etc;
6. To create many and specialized sites for their ideas, campaigns, causes and products/services;
7. And many more.

The main problem I see here is the lack of control in the online environment – no matter how much I would be contradicted by the figures given by online monitoring. Let’s take the example of market research at the national level, on a representative sample. We can imagine a well written and thoughtful brief, with clear details on the social/economic/cultural/age/sex /etc. that belong to the interviewees and well-defined research objectives. One of these objectives, the most important one, is to find out the current state of the respective product/service/brand in terms of knowledge/recognition/notoriety. After that comes the questioning of the desire and the “power” of consumption of those targeted. The ultimate goal – the development of a marketing and communication strategy. What happens if this research is conducted online? The next things are going to happen:

1. The representative sample is almost impossible to reach (found, determined to answer, etc.), to verify, to control, as specified in the brief, so that the research is valuable through the information revealed;
2. In online almost nothing is really true, except the IPs and the number of unique visitors;
3. Of course, there are sophisticated monitoring tools that can provide more details, but in the end of this type of monitoring, if you ask, let’s say “what is the percentage of people between the ages of 18-26, with a salary of at least 1,500 lei per month, who would want to purchase the respective product/service in the next six months? ”, you cannot receive any objective answer because an online respondent cannot be verified.
4. The online questionnaires cannot have more than ten questions. If the survey has a large number of questions, the respondents will get bored. What is more, they cannot be asked to cross-check questions as it is done in classical research;
5. The online environment is perceived as the “place” where everything has to happen quickly, therefore visitors to a campaign’ website or questionnaire responders do everything very quickly.

We all know the reactions of a website’s visitor, their online behaviour and how many seconds they spend in order to browse on a page.

There would be many more nuances to examine, but we have already talked about the main aspects. In essence, campaigns and researches are based on the natural, normal interaction of people. However, the online environment alone does not allow this. It is the place where each of us can assume any idea, faith, identity – we can easily hide our true selves.

The online environment, seen so exclusively today as a universal panacea by marketers, seems to me the cheap alternative because it is very cheap to place an online questionnaire or build a website for a product/service, compared to classic research: CATI, sampling, focus groups, field visits to various selling points and open discussions with consumers, etc. I understand that we live in the 21st century, that of online speed, but balancing the classic methods of investigation and communication with online seems to me a deliberate omission of problems for the sake of budgets.

What is obtained with 1500 euros through online research cannot be compared with what can be obtained with 9500-12500 euros through the combined questionnaire methods: “face to face” / CATI / focus groups. I don’t think the difference of 8000-11000 euros is worth and knowingly taking the risk of finding out almost nothing about the market and the consumer, but having a justifying PowerPoint presentation in the meeting room, in front of the board, showing the budget savings achieved.
Because I have dealt with products/services/brands in Romania since 1994 – strategy, planning, marketing, communication, design, implementation and so on – every time I approach a new project, I observe that information is vital to develop knowingly a coherent strategy that is also USEFUL FOR THE BRAND. I don’t want to eliminate the online environment, but I only see it as a useful PRESENTATION and INFORMATION add-on, because if you don’t exist in the consumer’s mind offline, you certainly cannot exist only in the online environment (or to build your brand almost exclusively there).

I will now add a quote, something written by a user on YouTube, 4buttonclaymore:
“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it’s all true. They can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”