The New Push vs. Pull - The Mystical Power Behind Content Marketing

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The average consumer has become incredibly adept at blocking out advertising messaging. It makes sense if you think about it. All day, every day, we walk around being bombarded by slogans, jingles, and mascots. They find us in our cars, in our homes, at work, maybe even in our sleep for those of us that like to doze off to the glow of a television. What option is there but to learn to block it all out - aside from madness? Ad madness. If that isn't already a term, it is now.

While these types of mass media advertisements may once have been considered pull marketing, these days, it's much more accurate to refer to them as push marketing. Why? Because they're intrusive and unwanted.

It's the primary way companies have sold to consumers since the dinosaurs first invented commerce (which you can't prove wasn't a real thing). It worked for a long time, too. First with print ads in newspapers and magazines. Then, with the radio age, a new medium to push marketing messages to the masses arrived. When pictures started to move companies could suddenly demonstrate their products in use, eventually beaming their ads right into our homes.

But with each new method companies found to shove an ad in front of our eyes, fatigue grew and grew. With no sanctuary from the bombardment, no respite, the only defense we had available to us was to become Sheldon Cooper-level geniuses at ignoring everything. That new paradigm of consumer block-out represents a real challenge for a lot of businesses - but it also represents a significant opportunity, especially when it comes to advertising online.

The online world is totally different from the world of print, or radio, or television. Most significantly it differs in the level of control that the viewer - or consumer - has over what they see, how they see it, and when. Sure, modern day satellite and cable packages offer up roughly a billion channels and people can spend an entire 24-hour period surfing the guide before cycling back to where they started, but the level of control still doesn't even remotely compare.

This new level of control is one of the main reasons people are abandoning traditional television and radio for things like Netflix and podcasts, and while newspapermen across the country are mourning the death of the written word, savvy marketers are adapting and finding new ways to break through the wall. Those that succeed will find that their marketing messaging sticks. It's just a matter of getting through. The question is how?

Enter modern day pull marketing. Whereas the marketing textbooks might tell you pull marketing is anything that causes consumers to seek out a product - including mass media campaigns - that definition is now out of date.

Everyone is familiar with pull marketing, although most people probably don't think of it using that term. If you've ever walked into a grocery store and munched on a tasty free sample, you've interacted with a form of pull marketing. If you've ever used a free app provided by a bank or other company, you've interacted with pull marketing. If you've ever voted for your favorite anything online, you've interacted with pull marketing.

Pull marketing is all about participation. It's about making consumers want to interact with a brand, an advertisement, a product, etc., rather than trying to force a message onto them. The key is value. So now that we've discarded the old definition of pull marketing, let's establish a new one;

Modern pull marketing is centered on creating a desire among consumers to accept and interact with a company's marketing materials by providing them with something of significant value in exchange for their attention.

Not the most eloquent definition, but it'll do for now. The meat is clear though, pull marketing is all about getting consumers to turn off their ad-blinders by giving them something. That something could be, well, almost anything - as long as the end consumer finds it valuable.

This is where the amazing power of content marketing comes into play. Content is what almost everyone on the web is after in one way or another. Everyone visiting YouTube is there for content. Everyone visiting Wikipedia is there for content. Everyone on Twitter is there for content. The list goes on and on.

It follows then, that since content is the thing everyone online wants, the thing that companies should provide as their end of the pull marketing transaction is...CAT MEMES! Well, in a way yes. But, no. Content, of course! It's content! The companies that provide their social media followers and website visitors with the best content will find themselves with the most attentive audiences for their promotional materials. It's that simple.

The key here is quality. Now when many people in the online marketing world hear the word 'quality' the letters magically transmogrify into 'quantity'. That's why the internet is so polluted with garbage websites based on garbage articles. Rather than break through to their target market with precision sniper fire of quality content, many marketers would rather open up with a Gatling gun spewing thousands of rounds of full metal jacketed crap.

While the carpet bombing method might be easier it absolutely is not more effective. Garbage content is easy to sniff out, and the same superhuman power that allows consumers to block out ads enables them to smell half-assed content from a mile away. The result is the same. That bogus content will be ignored at best and avoided like the plague at worst, rendering the efforts of the lazy marketer moot.

So what's the right content? What's valuable? What will resonate with consumers? Obviously, there are no absolute answers for any of those questions. The only good answer is 'it depends'. Who is the target market? What problems do they need to be solved? What are they looking for? Do they want to learn? To laugh? To cry? It depends.

What matters is that you must fully understand and buy into the transaction equation; value in exchange for attention. The marketer that will succeed is the marketer that takes the exchange seriously, goes out of their way to research and understand what their target consumers are looking for, and dedicates themselves to offering up the best content they possibly can.

The end result will be an audience that willfully pays attention. It will also be an audience that cares about the company they're interacting with, resulting in good will and increased brand loyalty. At the end of the day, it means more money in the bank. But be warned, the online consumer is fickle and unforgiving. Break their trust by failing to keep offering up value, and they'll flip the light switch off leaving you in the dark with all the rest of the push marketers.
#content #marketing #mythical #power #pull #push
  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Consumers have always had some level of control. They could close the magazine or paper and throw it away if there were too many ads - or ignore the ads. They could switch stations or turn off the radio. Ditto for the TV. My mute button is my friend.

    So ad blindness is nothing new. It's just that the scale of the blindness has kept up with the scale of the sensual assault.

    That said, you still make a good point.

    Many people around here talk about "driving traffic" to an offer. Unless you're using some kind of sneaky code to hijack the browser, that isn't possible. You can only attract traffic (aka, people) to your landing pages, opt-in offers, sales pages, etc.

    You have to offer them something that makes them want to stay with you, or oblivion is just a click or two away.
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  • Profile picture of the author rhealy29
    Excellent point John. The difference is that the only choice that consumers had back then was, as you've said, to close the newspaper or change the channel / turn off the television.

    So in a sense, the transaction was the exact opposite of what it is today (at least online). The deal then was "if you wish to enjoy this content, you WILL see this ad". Today, it's shifted to, "I would really like you to view this ad, so in exchange, please let me provide you with this content."

    The equation has reversed in that the control has largely shifted to reflect that the marketer no longer really holds the consumer hostage the way they did in the days when the consumers only other option was to tune out entirely.

    You're totally correct on ad blindness though, it's always been around, but the effectiveness of it has exploded, and while people could always change the channel back in the day, they certainly couldn't fast forward through the commercials or block the ads entirely the way they can today.
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  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    "Pull marketing'?

    Is that just another way of saying "attraction marketing"?

    Can it benefit from the same automation that has made attraction marketing easier?
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    • Profile picture of the author rhealy29
      Originally Posted by writeaway View Post

      "Pull marketing'?

      Is that just another way of saying "attraction marketing"?

      Can it benefit from the same automation that has made attraction marketing easier?
      Push and pull marketing are terms that have been around for a long, long time. "Attraction marketing" from what I can tell, seems to be a term that tends to get thrown around in the MLM world. I know absolutely nothing about the MLM world so I won't comment on whether or not the term means the same thing as pull marketing, but I would imagine there are similarities at the very least.
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  • Profile picture of the author sahib1989
    This is the reason almost all of us these days have ad blockers installed in our browsers. The constant bombarding of banner ads and other forms of advertisement that cover up half the page on our favorite websites are just too much to take after a while.

    Most websites like Forbes have gone around it by simply making visitors turn off their ad blockers if they want to visit their website. Then there are remarketing ads that follow you around everywhere. I once opened a website of a call center outsourcing company and now I see their ads everywhere, even in my skype application.
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  • Profile picture of the author justinhustles
    Great read!
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    I build and maintain websites for small businesses. Check out growfio.com

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  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    Originally Posted by rhealy29 View Post

    While these types of mass media advertisements may once have been considered pull marketing, these days, it's much more accurate to refer to them as push marketing. Why? Because they're intrusive and unwanted.

    What you have stated in your first two paragraphs makes me scratch my head wondering how you came up with these "new" definitions.

    You've stated that typical mass media ads that were once "considered pull marketing" are now to be referred to as push marketing simply because they are "intrusive and unwanted." That's very strange.

    That is not what defines "push marketing" in my book. "Pull" marketing that is unwanted is still pull marketing regardless of how you or anyone else feels about it. The strategy doesn't change simply because it's become more widespread and maybe less welcome.

    To me, "push marketing" has always entailed products being "pushed" to the consumer based on his wants (like a consumer asking for a free sample) vs. a product supplier trying to "pull" customers in with radio ads, billboards, the traditional media approaches, yada, yada.

    The critical point that I'm trying to make is that both push and pull marketing are independent of consumer response - they are neither good nor bad - intrusive or passive - they are just different approaches and their intensity and positive or negative reception does not change their definition as you have tried to do.

    Steve
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    Steve Browne, online business strategies, tips, guidance, and resources
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    • Profile picture of the author rhealy29
      Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

      What you have stated in your first two paragraphs makes me scratch my head wondering how you came up with these "new" definitions.

      You've stated that typical mass media ads that were once "considered pull marketing" are now to be referred to as push marketing simply because they are "intrusive and unwanted." That's very strange.

      That is not what defines "push marketing" in my book. "Pull" marketing that is unwanted is still pull marketing regardless of how you or anyone else feels about it. The strategy doesn't change simply because it's become more widespread and maybe less welcome.

      To me, "push marketing" has always entailed products being "pushed" to the consumer based on his wants (like a consumer asking for a free sample) vs. a product supplier trying to "pull" customers in with radio ads, billboards, the traditional media approaches, yada, yada.

      The critical point that I'm trying to make is that both push and pull marketing are independent of consumer response - they are neither good nor bad - intrusive or passive - they are just different approaches and their intensity and positive or negative reception does not change their definition as you have tried to do.

      Steve

      Steve,

      I'd disagree with you in that the fundamental difference between push and pull marketing is that push marketing is all about trying to push a product, or more specifically the awareness of a product, onto a consumer who may or may not be interested, whereas pull marketing has always been about trying to bring the consumer in of their own accord, usually based on at least some pre-existing interest or need.

      There was a time when mass media campaigns like tv commercials were considered pull marketing because at the time, splashing an ad across their television was considered a way to bring them in of their own accord due to the nature of the advertising space and the way people interacted with it.

      I'd argue that now, the act of placing an advertisement in front of a consumer on their television set, in a magazine, or really anywhere it's unwanted is much more in line with the push marketing definition of old, i.e. pushing awareness of a product out to an audience that may have little to no interest in it. I.e., bringing the product to the consumer rather than bringing the consumer to the product.

      On the other hand, in the context of content marketing, if a consumer is choosing to interact with a brand's content on social media, a website, or anywhere else, there is clearly existing interest, or, at the very least an existing relationship. This meets one criterion for pull. Secondly, the advertiser is inviting the target consumer to interact with the company, the ad, the product, purely of their own accord - another criterion for pull.

      Mass media campaigns in outlets like traditional television and print may once have been considered pull marketing - when compared to the alternatives that existed then; things like direct selling, point-of-sale displays, etc. The web has changed the options, which is why I now firmly believe that traditional mass media advertising is now far more push than pull, making its inclusion in the old definition obsolete.

      Remember, the traditional definitions were written at a time when people's only real options were to either be exposed to a product through advertising or to be exposed to a product in-store. That world hasn't existed for a long time, and the writers of the traditional definitions probably didn't foresee a time when a huge proportion of consumers would do the research that leads to purchases (both minor and major) from a worldwide source of information in their homes.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    You have your opinion . . . I have a difference of opinion based upon my education and many years in the business world.

    It seems that your new definition of push marketing is dependent upon whether or not the consumer "wants" or doesn't want the product. I don't believe that is, or should be, a criteria at all. I believe marketing strategies are based upon how they are designed and implemented - not how they are received by the consumer. What you are implying is that the very same marketing strategy is called one thing for a consumer that wants the message and a different thing for someone else that doesn't want that message. I am disagreeing with that premise as it's never been the case in my experience.

    Over and out.

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author rhealy29
      Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

      You have your opinion . . . I have a difference of opinion based upon my education and many years in the business world.

      It seems that your new definition of push marketing is dependent upon whether or not the consumer "wants" or doesn't want the product. I don't believe that is, or should be, a criteria at all. I believe marketing strategies are based upon how they are designed and implemented - not how they are received by the consumer. What you are implying is that the very same marketing strategy is called one thing for a consumer that wants the message and a different thing for someone else that doesn't want that message. I am disagreeing with that premise as it's never been the case in my experience.

      Over and out.

      Steve
      Let's play out three hypothetical situations. One clearly push marketing, one clearly pull marketing, the third maybe more ambiguous.

      Scenario 1) I need to buy food. I go to my local grocery store to buy it. I don't really have much choice in that. I have to stand in line to buy that food. There is a point-of-sale display in front of me in that line. Aside from closing my eyes, I don't have much choice but to see it. That advertising message, or more specifically the awareness of that product, is being brought to me - pushed on me - whether I like it or not, whether I need that product or not, whether I want that product or not. Push marketing.

      Scenario 2) I am surfing the web getting ready for a camping trip. I have full control over an immense sea of information. I am forced to see nothing I do not wish to see. I choose to go to the Mountain Equipment CoOp facebook page to read their newest articles because I regularly enjoy their content. While on their Facebook page I'm exposed to ads and I may even choose to read a new product profile. This is entirely my choice. I can get the information I seek elsewhere. I choose to interact with their content, their brand, their ads. They have drawn me to them. Pull marketing.

      Scenario 3) I am watching television on my basic cable package in which I have 50 channels. My show goes to commercial. It's a commercial about cereal. Regardless of whether or not I eat cereal, I'm going to see this commercial. My only other option is to change the channel or divert my attention to another task. Maybe there is something else on, maybe not. Maybe the other channel I like is also on a commercial for something I may or may not care about. I do have some control, but very, very little by comparison to scenario 2. I sit through the ads even though I could care less about the product. The awareness of the product is being brought to me and placed in front of me whether I want it or not, without any consideration as to who I am, or what my wants or needs are. It's just blasted out. It's there.

      So, does scenario 3 sound more like push marketing where product awareness is brought to the consumer, or more like pull marketing where the consumer is drawn in to product awareness? Does the answer change if I'm a regular cereal consumer versus one that isn't?

      In my opinion, at a time when scenario two didn't exist, then sure, scenario 3 would sound pretty pull-y compared to scenario 1. But the existence of the web has shifted the scale. And in my personal opinion, it's shifted the scale so much that scenario 3 now sounds a lot more like push marketing to me than it does the pull of scenario two.
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