The Swing Vote

I’ve been talking a lot lately about how marketers using intel makes me happy, but then I started thinking about who the marketers REALLY want. The information about who is buying your brand, how much they’re buying, and how to keep them buying is definitely interesting, but I’d say it’s equally interesting to see who’s not buying your brand. And, not just the hardcore brand-haters, but the wishy-washy people. The people without a pattern. They’re the swing voters that flip-flop based on price, convenience, trends, and any other fickle variable that suits their fancy that day.

It’s not worth my time as a marketer to convince a die-hard Pepsi drinker to switch to Coke. It’s also not worth my time to keep coddling the die-hard Coke drinker, because, unless I do something completely stupid, like introduce “New Coke”, there’s no way I’m going to lose you. So, the really interesting segment to target, is the swing voter. When considering promotions, I need to seriously consider the cannibalization effect. I’m not looking to give $2 to someone that will already buy my product, I’m looking to attract a new customer that will hopefully become a loyal customer. I’m willing to take the $2 loss to get this new customer’s future full-price purchases. But, if I know this person is a swing voter that refuses to commit, do I really want them anyways? Is it worth the $2 loss to attract a customer that will drop me as soon as my competitor offers a $2 coupon?

So, we know we don’t want people who are willing to pay full price to start using our coupons, and we know that we probably don’t want to waste a coupon on a swing voter. Who do we actually want to spend money to attract? This is where the brilliance of parent companies comes in. They own a brand for every customer segment! There’s some people that always use a coupon, and others that only shop at one store. If you’ve got both the one store and the coupon, you’ve increased your market share and your bottom line. Of course, there’s always a few caveats. Are you going to be the best of the best in one thing, or average across all categories? It also goes back to the question, “Do I really want ALL customers?” Many companies think that a dollar is a dollar, but marketers know that customers come at a cost. Swing voters come with a very high cost, since you’re constantly having to wave the shiny object to keep their attention.

For all the posting happiness about what the data tells me, I’ve gotta admit that what the data DOESN’T tell me is equally fun to play with!

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