While there will never be a one-size-fits-all marketing approach, I’ve noticed some emerging trends in my years as a digital marketer. Lifestyle marketing, cause-based marketing, and self-improvement marketing have all seen a dramatic rise to popularity in my time. Over the last few years though there has been a huge uptick in what I call “associative marketing.”
What is Associative Marketing?
Simply put, associative marketing is selling to people like you.
This is a widely used (and wildly successful) tactic among minority groups and marginalized consumer segments. Associative marketing can be based on any characteristic but is most common among sexes/genders/sexual identities, races/ethnicities/nationalities, and religions/beliefs.
The most successful associative marketing strategies are based on characteristics that are integral to a person’s identity. For example, while associative marketing can be utilized to target flip flop wearers it will never be as effective as associative marketing that’s aimed at gays and lesbians, men, or Christians.
But, is it all hype? Or is there merit in selling to people just like you?
Does Associative Marketing Have Real Value?
I’ll be honest, I used to think that associative marketing was a cliched schtick. To me it felt unnervingly discriminatory to imply that someone needed to identify as a member of a group to sell to that group effectively. For instance, no one seemed to have a problem declaring that women were better marketers than men of women’s products. However, if that was true, wasn’t the converse true as well? That belief implies that women can’t sell men’s products to men. Viewing this one way seemed illogical and viewing it reciprocally was prejudiced.
My opinion changed when I started looking for a local co-working space. I don’t live in a huge metropolitan area, so the options around here are more limited than they might be elsewhere in the country. First, I visited a co-working space for women. It was a comfortable space with on-site childcare, a nursing/pumping room, and opportunities to build community with other women. The Mom founder decided to open the space to give other moms everything she realized she needed after having kids and trying to work from home. Unfortunately, its location and smaller size didn’t make it a good fit for my needs. At the same time, I found out a former colleague of mine was starting a co-working space much closer to my home. I eagerly texted him for more information and he rattled off the types of amenities and offerings it included. When I asked about childcare he replied, “Sorry, no childcare. No pets either.” I was stunned. As a mother I was totally offended that anyone would compare my needs to a pet owner’s desires, or my children to animals. But more shockingly, as the conversation continued it became clear that childcare was not even something that he had considered offering. It was in that moment that my view of associative marketing changed.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t believe someone can only market to their own. However, I do believe that marketing to yourself is easiest. And with this ease comes a relational familiarity that drives effective strategic marketing. Marketing to another demographic successfully requires putting in significant work that some marketers simply have no desire to do.
When it comes to a co-working space, anyone can create an offering that will appeal to moms that stay home with kids and also work from home (referred to as WFHM – Work From Home Moms). But someone (whether that is a biological Mom or Dad, adoptive parent, foster parent, or another caregiver) with kids who is trying to work while parenting them is going to understand that struggle better than someone without kids. An outsider trying to target this segment must do the research and collect the anecdotal evidence needed to craft an offering that will resonate. Starting conversations is key and listening is even more crucial. It was clear in the conversation with my colleague that he had not taken the steps to understand what the WFHM market segment needed. With the prevalence of stay-at home parenting in this region, that seemed like a huge oversight to me because if you’re assuming that people with children will put them in daycare and come work at a shared space, your co-working space is now competing with home offices, which are both private and free.
Why is Associative Marketing Successful?
There’s no learning curve when you’re marketing to your own crowd. You already know what their needs are, what drives them, what they struggle with, what they aspire to do, and how these elements can evolve over time. This knowledge is an unignorable advantage.
Associative marketing is successful because it:
- Utilizes Existing Strengths and Passions
- Is Highly Targeted and Strategic
- Creates Belonging
- Sells a Lifestyle
Need content written or online advertising launched as part of your associative marketing strategy? Contact us today to find out how we can help!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and two children and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!