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Fliers: lessons in marketing from the land that time forgot

Increasingly I find my posts focusing on digital marketing, and on the ability of new tools and techniques to transform our communications. However,...

Increasingly I find my posts focusing on digital marketing, and on the ability of new tools and techniques to transform our communications. However, every now and then, it’s good to have a reminder that these aren’t the only options available to us.

I had a particularly poignant reminder of this very fact on my recent holiday to New Zealand. For those of you who’ve not been lucky enough to go already, New Zealand has set itself up as the outdoor activities capital of the world. If there’s an activity that takes place outdoors, and is probably adrenalin-fuelled, you can bet that you can do it in New Zealand – this includes everything from bungy jumping and white-water rafting, to more sedate activities such as whale watching and hiking. The range of activities on offer at any one location is seemingly endless, and they are marketed at hotels, hostels and tourist offices by A6 fliers, which are available in their hundreds.

As you might imagine, these fliers are anything but sophisticated – the format is the standard size with Z-fold, featuring an colourful image on the cover, usually including people who are screaming, accompanied by the words ‘exciting’, ‘adrenalin’ or ‘breath-taking’. But what they may lack in sophistication or subtly, they make up for in terms of effectiveness, with the Kiwi tourist industry worth $billions. From what I could see fliers were the primary, if not only, form of marketing driving this.

But I hear what you’re saying: “outdoor activities are consumer products Joel – what’s the relevance in B2B?” It’s a good question. The answer is that fliers are relevant because they are a perfect demonstration of ‘appropriate marketing’. A massive part of this industry’s audience is gap-year teenagers or early twenty-somethings, who (as we know) are highly digitally savvy and orientated, forever on Facebook (amongst other social media sites) and using Skype to talk to friends and family back home. You would expect them to be the last people interested in a flier… unless it’s simply the best means of getting access to the information that they need. They don’t have to pay to use the hostel Internet to find out about their next trip: they can just pick up a flier at reception. In other words, the flier is ‘appropriate’, or perhaps pertinent.

This point is true in B2B. Brands need to find a channel or technology that is appropriate to the needs of its customers or audience, and (shock horror) that might not be the latest digital thing. Instead, it might be something that is primitive, crude and relatively inflexible (such as promotional pen); but if it works, that’s all that counts.

I’m not saying from this that brands should ignore digital and emerging techniques – far from it. But they should not focus on digital to the exclusion of all the tried and tested techniques that are available, indeed they can work very well in tandem. After all, if old-school marketing techniques such as fliers are good enough for the digital native gap yearers, it’s probably good enough for business buyers.