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

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 reason 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.