Adaptive Reuse: How 20th Century Marketing Methods Could Save 21st Century Businesses

08 Mar Adaptive Reuse: How 20th Century Marketing Methods Could Save 21st Century Businesses

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”Harry S. Truman

The business world had been buzzing for months. The largest retailer in the history of American commerce was in trouble – again. It was hardly the first time Sears, Roebuck and company had danced with bankruptcy. The retail giant had been on the ropes many times throughout its 100+ year history and somehow managed to reinvent itself to stave off insolvency. But this time was different. This time, the rumors of Sears’ financial troubles had a more permanent vibe.

Then we all woke up to the news on Monday, October 15, 2018. The 130-year-old retail merchandiser had filed for bankruptcy. While a bankruptcy filing isn’t a automatic death sentence, it’s no secret that Sears has been in trouble for years; decades, even. Just take a quick walk around one of their remaining retail stores and the signs of a company in its death throes are unmistakable. Bare shelves, ramshackle inventory, and a sparse collection of employees with no observable grasp of the concept of customer service are just a few of the terminal symptoms. It seems the fiduciary cancer that has killed once-prominent retail giants like Toys-R-Us and Radio Shack and is currently decimating brands like J.C. Penny and Macy’s has set its sights on the literal grand-daddy of retailers.

The news out of Wall Street hasn’t been encouraging for traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores in recent years. But dwindling sales and mass store closings amid oceans of red ink seems to be the tip of the Titanic-sinking iceberg. The worst news is coming in the form of the digital generation entering adulthood. Online shopping has forever changed the retail world and those legacy retailers who have been resting on their 20th century laurels are learning the very hard way there’s no such thing as “too big to fail” in the Amazon age.

But, is the extinction of traditional retail stores inevitable? What if the end of a method of commerce that pre-dates the existence of the United States of America could be prevented? What if blending the following 20th century marketing methods with modern digital advertising could save 21st century retail stores?

Bring Back Customer Service

A long time ago, in a shopping mall far, far away, there used to be department stores filled with employees who all had the same priority: to provide their customers with an exceptional shopping experience.

That was then. This is now.

Most of us have plenty of bad shopping stories. This is due in no small part to an observable drop in the ‘exceptional shopping experience’ priority within most legacy retailers. Unfortunately, the concept of customer service seems to have followed most customer service departments into retail shopping extinction.

However, as new generations of retailers enter the marketplace, there has been a resurgence of understanding the need to provide customers with more than just bargain bin pricing on their goods and services. Smart business owners know earning repeat business is just as important as earning new business and nothing keeps the doors open better than positive customer service experiences.

Word of Mouth

Yep, we’ve all got bad shopping stories and thanks to the internet, we can share our retail horror stories with everyone. In the digital age, word-of-mouth marketing is probably MORE vital than ever thanks to consumer review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and even Amazon and Facebook.

One aspect of marketing that successful businesses utilize is what is commonly referred to as ‘reputation management’. Companies with a healthy eye on managing their brand’s reputation in the digital landscape are often managed by people with this fundamental understanding: a positive shopping experience is as important to the average consumer as the products and services your business offers.

Offering the best pricing and deals on your products is great. But what good are those sales if no one is in the store to take advantage of them because of poor word of mouth? 21st century reputation management mixed with 20th century customer service priorities is a perfect recipe for a booming business.

Direct Mail

We know what you’re thinking. ‘Direct mail is dead. Long live email blasts’, right? Well, what happens when every company on the planet is spending their marketing dollars on filling inboxes with marketing emails? In a word, saturation. There are millions of neglected mailboxes across the nation just waiting for your direct marketing materials to catch a future customer’s eye.

Still need some convincing? Research statistics reveals some interesting direct mail data:

  • The response rate for direct mail was 4.9% for 2018 prospect lists (the highest increase in direct mail responses since 2003).
  • The house list direct mail response rate in 2018 was 9% – nearly double from the previous year.
  • The response rates for direct mail ranges from five to nine times greater than all direct digital marketing forms.

Keep in mind, these methods are not an either/or proposition. Rather than replacing a digital marketing campaign with a direct mail strategy, the winning strategy is to blend your digital marketing with a well-targeted direct mailer.

The real tragedy in the case of Sears is in understanding how they built their entire retail empire: on a massive foundation of direct mail catalogue sales. Anyone alive in the United States throughout the 20th century cannot count the number of times they came in contact with a Sears catalogue throughout their lifetimes.

However in 1993, when the internet was in its infancy, Sears ended their 100-year-old bulk catalogue mailing strategy in an effort to cut costs. It doesn’t take a marketing wizard to imagine what position Sears would be holding in today’s marketplace if they had kept their century-old direct mail marketing stranglehold while simultaneously building a digital marketing platform. It’s a safe bet that ‘Amazon’ would just be the name of a South American river today.

Modern digital marketing techniques and strategies are certainly powerful and perfectly positioned to reach current and future customers. But as with all things in life, history should not be ignored in the mad rush for the latest and greatest. At Malone Media Group, you won’t just get the latest 21st century marketing strategies for your business. You’ll receive a sound marketing strategy that fits your brand from the past and the present to guarantee your business’ future.

Because Malone Media Group understands the difference between building your business’ legacy and leaving one behind…