Catching up to tomorrow

DSW desperately wants me to buy high heels....but pink is SO not my color!

DSW desperately wants me to buy high heels....but pink is SO not my color!

I’m human, and I have my weaknesses and vices. Who doesn’t?

Aside from coffee and chocolate, one of my biggest weaknesses is a firm belief that retail therapy can solve most problems – at least for a little while.

My biggest vice is shoes. You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes – and I like mine to say new, sleek and stylish.

I’ve signed up for those frequent shopper cards at several shoe stores, like DSW.

A simple idea with straightforward implementation, right? Well, not quite.

DSW hasn’t quite grasped the fact that I’m a man. You would think the name “Patrick” would give it away, but they seem to have missed the point. Why do I say this? Because of the mail I get from them…..for handbags and Manolos.

They really, really want to put a handbag on my shoulder and some high heels on my feet. I’ve been a member of their “Reward Your Style” frequent shopper club for about 6 or 7 years, and I can’t tell you how many times in a year I get coupons for heels and purses.  (Damn, DSW, I dress in drag for one Halloween and it follows me around forever!)

In all seriousness, I’m mentioning this because we talk a lot about how Facebook, Twitter, social media and e-mail have changed the way that companies can focus their marketing efforts. But in some ways, those efforts are still in beta. For every company that understands technology and the resources those platforms and programs put at their fingertips, there are companies like DSW who seemingly can’t even make efficient use of a simple mailing list.

future_media-id210534_size380It seems like so many traditional companies – media and retail, to name just two – are still clinging to traditional delivery channels when it comes to engaging with customers. I write about TV on another blog, and millions of words have been spilled about the Nielsen ratings and how ineffective they seem to be in capturing an accurate ratings measurement.

That doesn’t even touch on the fact that many of the old stereotypes about demographics don’t hold water anymore. Nielsen (and Madison Avenue) is using decades-old conventional wisdom (that only a young, impressionable female demographic will be willing to try new products) to make decisions.

But life in America has changed a great deal in the last 30 years. The old conventional wisdom was that after 60, Granny would never change her toothpaste brand or try a new brand of coffee. These days, Granny is probably trying a new brand of upscale coffee at Starbucks before she and Grandpa go bungee-jumping.

My specific demographic – gay men over 30 – are some of the biggest consumers of new products and new technology. LGBT people in general are often, as Richard Florida says, the “canary in the coal mines” in exploring and re-energizing new neighborhoods. We’re often on the forefront of identifying new ideas, new trends and adapting new technology.

And yet, very little is marketed directly to us. We can be part of a collective experience at, say, an Apple store or a place where we might appreciate the durable goods being offered. (Those stores for me are usually places like Design Within Reach and Room & Board.)

More often, if you walk around a mall or around a large store like Macy’s or Nordstrom’s, anywhere between 60 and 90 percent of the store is aimed at that 18-to-34 female demographic. I’m not suggesting that companies have to market directly to me, or to ANY sub-demographic. But there seems to be so many new opportunities and new ways to manage marketing that are being overlooked.

To me, it seems SO simple to do it (more interactive social media, e-mail marketing) and is a much more efficient use of marketing dollars. It might also boost sales in those formerly underserved demographics, as well.

Marketing specialists (or rather, people who are more experienced in this area than me): do you agree, or am I on the wrong track? Am I missing an obvious roadblock or reasoning for the system being as it is, or have companies not quite finessed the technology that could enable them to really fine-tune their marketing message?

One comment

  1. (Those stores for me are usually places like Design Within Reach and Room & Board.)

    Having just seen my first Design Within Reach store a couple of weeks ago – there’s nothing “within reach” there of my Visa card.. I understand the concept, but it’s more window dressing and iCandy than practically affordable.

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