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Applying the Old Marketing Rules to the Cyber World
Excerpts from Permission Marketing

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If you're like most Americans, you have every single one of these products in your house: Crisco, Tabasco, Campbell's, Vaseline, and Arm & Hammer. And every one of them was launched more than fifty years ago. Fifty years! This isn't the newest or the coolest or the hippest or the cheapest. These are products you chose because you trust them.

Why do you trust them? Because of frequency. Over the years, you've been inundated with messages about their quality and reliability. All of these brands are now coasting. They do relatively little advertising, and the advertising they do isn't very innovative or aggressive. But because they've used fifty-plus years of frequency in a focused, consistent way, they've made a huge impact on you and virtually every other consumer in this country.

Because they're trusted, they're profitable. In fact, in virtually every industry, the most trusted brand is also the most profitable. Frequency led to awareness, awareness to familiarity, and familiarity to trust. And trust, almost without exception, leads to profit. But what if you're not Vaseline? What if your product isn't a piece of our culture, and you need to build that trust?
Advertisers don't have the power to interrupt enough consumers to get their attention and make it pay the way it used to. In a world of mass customization, of high-speed products and higher-speed messaging, consumers don't want a batch approach. Just as consumers are now demanding more personalization (from one hundred coffee drinks at Starbucks to thousands of different models from Nike), they are most likely to respond to advertising that is frequent, focused, and personal. It's a new game now. Creating value through interaction is far more important than solving a consumer's problem in thirty seconds. So if you can get the right to communicate with permission, you've just obtained the right to use frequency. And that, as we've seen, is the holy grail of marketing.

Many marketers are uncomfortable with this change. But others are embracing it and finding vast profits as a result. Every direct marketer and catalog marketer has an A-list. This is the list of people who buy proportionally more products than the rest of the population. When the J. Peterman or the Lands' End catalog arrives on the A-list customer's doorstep, attention is paid. Orders are given. The prospect trusts the merchant. The prospect buys from the merchant. Without realizing it, these direct marketers have built a permission-based relationship with these customers. Is it any surprise they buy more?

Is the permission overt? Did the consumer say, "Please, go ahead and send catalogs?" Well, not quite. But by buying from these catalogs, by rewarding the frequent interruptions with business again and again, these consumers now anticipate the catalog. They've decided that the catalog is relevant to them, and they hold off on purchases until the next catalog comes. Imagine how much better the A-list would be if there were explicit rewards for the prospect for responding and overt permission to the merchant to market more instead of the more subtle relationship that exists today.

The Internet is the greatest direct-marketing medium of all time. E-mail is the main reason people use the Internet. And E-mail delivers frequency for free. Permission Marketing will allow you to harvest that frequency.
Consumers have very strong feelings about many of the brands and services in their lives, and generally, trust is the critical prerequisite. Where does trust come from? Trust comes from frequency. But before frequency turns into sales, it turns into permission. Permission to communicate, permission to customize, permission to teach. And permission is just a step away from trust.

Seth Godin is vice-president for permission marketing at Yahoo! He founded Yoyodyne, an online promotion and direct-marketing company, and helped build it into a Permission Marketing pioneer before selling it to Yahoo! in 1998. Godin is a recipient of the 1998 Momentum Award honoring outstanding Internet industry accomplishments. He can be reached at

Reprinted and excerpted with permission from
Permission Marketing
By Seth Godin,
Copyright 1999, Seth Godin
Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster
All rights reserved.
Available at the McGraw-Hill Bookstore and online bookstores



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