Changing Influence of New Media

The role of traditional media on the purchase decision of consumers may well be dwindling, but the industry is still the top ranking influencer according to a study by consumer intelligence company, BIGresearch.

The Simultaneous Media Survey revealed that in the electronics industry, reading an article on a product influenced 34.3 per cent of consumers’ purchase decisions. This was second only to word of mouth (42.6 per cent) in its level of influence. Newspaper inserts (30.5 per cent) and TV/broadcast (27.9 per cent) were ranked the third and fourth most influential mediums.

Surprisingly, direct mail (22.5 per cent) was seen to have more influence on the purchase decision than any new media. Email advertising and Internet advertising had the greatest effect of any new media channel with 21.5 per cent and 22.4 per cent respectively. The channels more commonly associated with the social media revolution, such as blogging (6.1 per cent) and instant messaging (7.5 per cent) had relatively low levels of influence on the purchasing decision.

However, while traditional media is still highly influential, the research also reveals that the level of influence of traditional media as a whole is declining. Broadcast TV and cable both showed a decline of 13.9 per cent and 14.4 per cent since the end of 2006. Conversely, instant messaging and blogging experienced double digit growth in terms of influence levels, increasing by 22 per cent and 21.5 per cent.

According to Andrew Girdwood, Head of Search at bigmouthmedia, the declining levels of influence is partly down to the technology at the consumer’s disposal. However, the same technology can actually enhance marketing messages if used properly.

"I think there’s no question that the traditional media has lost influence in recent years. Many people now download their entertainment and today, even TV viewers can fast-forward through the adverts using their set-top boxes while only a fraction of the thousands of programming hours available are actually recorded and watched.

"Consumers are smarter and more demanding than ever before. We operate in a media landscape where TV commercials are copied by consumers, posted onto YouTube, voluntarily watched by thousands more and rated by the online audience. Experience so far indicates that the public will tolerate and even listen to corporate messages, but only as long as it is expertly executed," said Girdwood.

The level of influence of new media channels was also more influential among minority groups. African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be influenced by new media than Caucasians across all forms of new media specified in the survey.

"It’s no longer enough for marketers to advertise only a slogan or warm fuzzy feeling. Top line sales growth and bottom line increases are where it’s at in today’s highly competitive no growth market," said Gary Drenik, President of BIGresearch. "Marketers need to better understand the changing dynamics of the consumer media market and develop new marketing plans that integrate new media to replace the erosion of traditional media for influence to purchase. Marketers who can’t tap new media options for their influence to purchase will suffer a decline in advertising ROI," said Drenik.

Charlie Hoult, of brand communications group, Loewy believes that traditional marketing still has its role to play in the purchase decision.

"New media is influencing the way consumers spend as it allows them to research their purchasing decisions in more depth online and also seek out the opinions and recommendations of others. Yet the influence of traditional marketing tactics should not be forgotten – recent research into consumer buying habits shows that 70 per cent of all purchasing decisions are still made in the last 4ft of point-of-purchase. It remains important for brands to invest in product design to meet a need, package designers to capture consumers’ attention in that critical last 4ft from point-of-sale and PR for third-party endorsement. With the continuing growth of online media, brands should be careful not to dismiss the value of their traditional roots," said Hoult.

The idea that in a successful campaign, traditional media and new media should not be mutually exclusive is a thought shared by Duncan Parry, Director of Strategy at Steak Media. According to Parry, new media can actually enhance the messages and have a positive effect on other aspects of traditional media such as measurement.

"A well-executed above the line (ABL) campaign can still lift response rates via digital advertising. Increased brand recognition resulting from ABL activity can be tracked across raised click through rates, increases brand/product-specific searches, direct URL type-ins, etc.

"It will be interesting to see how the convergence of TV and online will create new advertising opportunities that take the best of the broadcast and digital mediums and combine them. There are already on-demand catch-up TV services including BBC iPlayer, 4OD and ITV Play. Two of these offer advertising now, and the joint venture that will launch later this year between all three will offer even more advertising opportunities. Consumers are actively seeking out these TV shows, offering advertisers the opportunity to target them actively in an interactive format," he continued.

Caroline Taylor, Group Marketing Director at digital marketing agency TradeDoubler, is unconvinced that traditional marketers will become obsolete although they will have to embrace digital tools. "Traditional marketing can still function though it depends, to a degree, on what market sector they operate in. Anyone wanting to remain competitive within the vertical sectors that have taken digital marketing to heart, need to have a strong online presence. Finance and travel are obvious examples. Advertisers cannot ignore the fact that a large percentage of the population uses the Internet, If not to buy, at least to research. Anyone without a presence is missing out on potential sales, whether the sale itself takes place online or offline, she said.

The marketing industry would be well advised to stop trying to pigeonhole activities and instead concentrate on the core messages and the target audience.

"The issue for marketers is to finally stop wasting time and money worrying about ‘old’ or ‘new’ media and take a leaf out of retailers books – where ‘all’ media offers the greater advantage. ‘If’ and ‘or’ then become ‘and’," said Richard Hill, creative director of brand strategy and creative design agency Lloyd Northover.

"The lesson is to design an experience that is compelling and benefit-focused and then decide how its audiences are best reached. This is beginning to be recognised in subtle changes in the language of ‘new’ media. While it’s welcome, approaches such as ‘behavioural targeting’ are simply the recognition by the ‘newer’ media to what traditional has long taught us: we hate being pushed with stuff we didn’t ask for and we didn’t want."

[Disclosure: Loewy is the parent company of Rainier PR, writer Tim Hoang’s other employer.]

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