Why mobile-texting zombies are not a clue to the future of marketing

by David Cole on 15/10/2013

Walking down a pavement is becoming more and more like driving a dodgem at a fairground as you are forced to swerve, stop and start to steer round the mobile-texting zombies whose senses are trained elsewhere.

And because so many peoples’ attention is seemingly anchored to their mobiles it seems reasonable to expect them to be eager to receive marketing messages by this route – wrong.

Whatever they are absorbed in, it’s personal and as the 2013 annual fast.MAP Marketing-GAP Tracking Study reveals, fewer than 2% of adults are happy to receive marketing contact on their mobile and only just over 2% want SMS contact.

In fact, fewer than 4in100 prefer contact from companies they use by any medium other than email, mail or landline (and even landline is favoured by only 6in100). Marketers significantly underestimate people’s preference for existing-relationship direct mail,

But observation of the spreading mobile-zombie plague could be one of the reasons marketers have been led to overestimate people’s happiness to receive mobile, SMS, Twitter and Social Media contact by between 200% and 400%.

This is one example of the GAP (between what consumers are doing and what marketers presume they’re doing) which this influential and wide-ranging research was set up in 2005 to record.

The only glimmer of hope in this the 9th study is that most of the marketers’ digital-media overestimates remain in single figures (except for an unjustified burst of over-exuberance about social media). In previous studies their over-expectation of people’s enthusiasm for the less traditional marketing media was expressed in tens not units.

Now compare people’s lack of enthusiasm for mobile/sms/social media marketing contact with the 8in10 who open direct mail.

As has been the case since 2005, the overwhelming majority of adults want to receive marketing information only via email and mail. Marketers would be unwise to ignore this.

The annual fast.MAP Marketing-GAP Tracking Study asks a panel of at least 1,000 consumers (which echoes the UK’s demographic balance) the same questions about their marketing activity each year and tracks changes in attitude and activity.

In partnership with the Institute of Promotional Marketing and the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and sponsored by Creditclick, it also adds several one-off questions which cover topical marketing issues. Where it is appropriate, some of these are added to the ongoing tracking study e.g. the addition in 2009 of social media and Twitter to as media options.

It simultaneously asks a panel of 300+ marketers to use their expertise and experience to anticipate the consumers’ responses. The GAP is the difference between the two.

Consumer response to some topics barely change from year to year, others generate a more volatile reaction.

For example, the top three reasons for opening letterbox-delivered marketing messages have remained unchanged since 2006, but more people this year opened mail because of the way it looks and there was a 3% increase (to 1in10) in those influenced by an attractive envelope.


Relevant packs are most-likely to be opened straight away; especially those containing information about supermarkets – always the favourite topic, after all, everyone eats.

Holidays, credit and home and garden retain instant appeal, though the pay-packet squeeze is imposing restraint, which could account for a slight diminishment in enthusiasm. Marketers have not yet caught up with impact the austerity climate is having on people’s enjoyment of information about non-essential items.

Conversely, of the 20% who bin printed marketing unopened, almost 3in5, do so because they’re not interested in the product or company and 46% simply object to receiving marketing. Marketers are aware of which types of promotional message people like least.

Personal experience is the most influential emotional influence on the buying decision, but most people are also influenced by a company’s level of social responsibility. Marketers identify the importance of social responsibility among a committed minority, but underestimate by 100% its influence on the general public.

Coupons and promotions really work

Shoppers are almost as keen this year as last to secure bargains. For the third year in succession, reward and loyalty schemes are the most-used type of promotion, followed by price discounts and coupons.

Use of coupons continues to increase. It takes a mere 20p voucher to motivate two thirds of shoppers and 8in10 will use a 50p coupon, rising to 9in10 who’ll use one worth £1. But marketers think 3in10 people never use coupons.


In fact, though most promotional tools were used less than last year, print and web coupons proved to be the exception, by holding their own.

Marketers expected only between a third and half of shoppers to have used all types of offers in the last year. In reality, brand-swap promotions of all kinds were used by more than 8in10 shoppers, while 96% swapped brand because of a price discount. Almost half of consumers used some kind of long-term reward scheme to buy more products than planned and card-based token collecting convinced two thirds more than in 2012 (11%) to buy extra.

1in5 bought products for the first time both after receiving a letterbox-delivered sample and after requesting one online. In-store samples convinced 15% to buy. Marketers expected sampling to be 150% more effective overall, but were aware of the success rates for door-dropped and online-requested coupons.


7 in 10 shoppers like to buy brands that are on promotion. But of the 4 in 10 who buy the same brands each time, 3in10 stay loyal despite cheaper or promoted alternatives.

Marketers underestimate by around half the percentage who like to buy both promoted items and brands they’ve not seen before.


While marketers can’t be expected to know everything about the audience it’s their job to seduce, it is slightly disappointing when they remain unaware of some of the major consumer preferences and dislikes which have changed little since the first survey in 2005.

This article was written by...

– who has written 2 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

Contact the author

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: