Flexibility, Analytics And Efficiency

It's said that bad news comes in threes. If you're marketing to affluent consumers, this old saw holds true. Unity Marketing, Ispos-Mendlesohn, and Bank of America have all checked in recently with data that show affluent consumers are as uneasy about the economic future as any other consumer segment. It's hardly time to pull back on affluent marketing, but it is time to adjust the message.

First, a little background. As Steve Kraus and Bob Shullman from Ipsos articulated in this space on Aug. 17, its "affluent barometer" had fallen to a new low. Unity Marketing reported on the same day that its affluent confidence index was bearish on the fourth quarter. And there's even fresh evidence that this attitude predates the recent debt ceiling crisis and preceding market turmoil.

According to Bank of America's mid-year survey, of the 1,000 individuals with more than $250,000 in investable assets, 66% said they are more concerned about their retirement assets lasting through their life span, an increase from 57% in January.



More than 54% now worry they cannot afford the retirement lifestyle they want, up from 46% in the beginning of the year. Now here's the good news. Digital marketing is in a perfect position to address these concerns as they grow or even ebb with the changing economy. Here are three reasons why:

Flexibility: With the ability to reach affluent customers in specific segments and at specific points in their decision making, ad platforms that act with precision and relevance are at a premium. If a brand is aiming a high-end product at the affluent audience, that messaging can be changed and optimized. Now that the "concern meter" is at an all-time high, display ads can change. The high-end business traveler is no longer assumed to be flying first-class. Maybe they need to be reminded of the benefits of first class for a frequent traveler. The Mercedes customer isn't a done deal for a new model next year. High-end brands still need to work hard to influence affluent customers.

Analytics:The New Yorker recently ran a piece that a lot of publications are running these days. The headline: "How Bad Will It Get." Online analytics will show attitude and behaviors. Affluent consumers vote with page views, context, and click-throughs before they vote with their wallet. Digital marketing will generate a lot more data to keep up with volatility than any other media.

Efficiency: If a brand changed its messaging to address the new affluent reality on print, TV and outdoor, the frequency of the change would be minimal and the cost would be high. Digital media allows for tests, retests, allocations and reallocations. High-end brands can move money toward digital marketing and feel confident that they are addressing a valuable customer segment as it goes through the same doubts and retrenchments of lower income brackets.

Affluents are not all about tee times and tea times these days. They're changing. The brands that keep their value through these changes will be aggressive, smart and digital.

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