Young Adults Still Prefer Offline Marketing Offers

Sep 23, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Despite the popularity of Facebook with the demographic, by a wide margin
18- to 34-year-olds still prefer to learn about marketing offers
via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media
platforms, according to national survey from ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting.

survey found that across a number of household, health and food products, the
preference for 18- to 34-year-old Americans to receive marketing information
from offline sources, led by mail and newspapers, is two to three times greater
than online sources, such as social media. The one exception was travel, where
online information was preferred to offline by a 42 percent to 35 percent margin.

Moreover, comparing results of
the survey to one done two years ago, online sources are becoming
even less trusted for information. Among respondents across all ages in the

  • Thirty-six percent of U.S. respondents in 2010 said information is more
    private if sent through the mail vs. e-mail or online, up from 29 percent
    in 2008;
  • A quarter said a lot of online information can’t be trusted, up from
    19 percent in 2008;
  • For general products,  57 percent of U.S. respondents ranked friends and
    family as the "most trustworthy" sources of information. Newspapers
    ranked second, 26 percent; company websites, 22 percent; television, 20 percent;
    and brochures and flyers, 18 percent. Among social media sites, Facebook
    ranked as 8 percent while both YouTube and Twitter came in at 7 percent.

"A key takeaway from this research is that marketers targeting coveted
18-34 year olds who are tempted to invest solely in social media could be missing
a significant portion of their audience," said Warren Storey, ICOM VP,
in a statement. "For example, a consumer goods company that relies heavily
on a female audience, especially moms, could fall short of expectations if it
uses only the social media channel. Companies need to employ a multi-channel
approach to gain maximum engagement with their customers."

The 2010 study
covered 2,569 U.S. households and 2,209 Canadian households.

Discussion Questions: Are online marketing campaigns, particularly those
tapping social media, being negatively affected by privacy and trust issues?
Is the marketing community generally overestimating the capabilities of reaching
consumers through social media now and even in the future?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "Young Adults Still Prefer Offline Marketing Offers"

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Max Goldberg
10 years 7 months ago

Companies should look at social media as being one arrow in their marketing quiver. Social media is not the end all and be all of marketing. The beauty of social media is that different campaigns can be quickly tested and evaluated. But traditional media still has a strong place in a well-balanced advertising campaign.

David Biernbaum
10 years 7 months ago

I’m finding it somewhat hard to believe that young adults prefer to read about CPG deals in newspapers rather than online. Please excuse the skepticism but I do wonder who bought the survey and what interests they might have had.

However, I completely agree that social media alone is not a good strategy for consumer products marketers. For one, many CPG companies don’t know how to do it right. Secondly, social media is not a magic bullet because the competition for attention and viral traction are overwhelming and immense.

Healthy CPG marketers are using a dynamic mix of media to get their messages out to their targeted markets.

Susan Rider
Susan Rider
10 years 7 months ago

Hmmm…I would like to know more about the 2,500+ households. This is an interesting result and is in total contrast to what some are seeing in the marketplace. In researching several between that age group, many never read a newspaper and rarely open the mail. But everyone has their internet phone glued to their person!

Joan Treistman
10 years 7 months ago

While we’re all talking about social media, consumers are still depending on newspapers and (face to face/ear to ear) word of mouth to showcase brands and recommendations. This is not the first research study to point this out. And every time I conduct research for marketers I hear the same story.

It’s not about privacy, and just a little about trust. It’s more about consumers wanting to see you when they want to see you, hear you when they want to hear you. They’re telling advertisers, “Please don’t interrupt me when I want to concentrate on something else.”

I think there are many marketers who would prefer to highlight their innovative social media strategy than think through the best way to reach their target audience. I’m just sayin’….

Mel Kleiman
10 years 7 months ago

There seems to be a major contradiction in the survey findings. They are not about trust and yet they are reporting it as an impact. 18-24 year-olds may say they trust the newspaper or TV more than Social Media, but:
1. Do they think the marketing message is more truthful in those media?
2. Do they even look at those media to get information about something they are interested in buying?

Yes, word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family are still the top sources of believable information. The question is, how do 18-34 year-olds connect with friends and family?

Liz Crawford
10 years 7 months ago

I think that one of the key data points here is the “trusted source” statistic…people trust their friends and family. So, while it may be so that consumers prefer offers in the mail, it is also true that they trust their friends. This points the the way to strategy. Namely, that the social space should be devoted to buzz and recommendations, the offline space (various media) should be devoted to more personalized offers.

Doug Stephens
Doug Stephens
10 years 7 months ago

I think the big takeaway is that there really is no one media format capable of reaching a majority of any segment. In the 1960s if you could buy 3 TV ads you could reach something like 80% of the viewing public. Today you need 117 ads to achieve the same result.

Consumers are multichannel and brands must be as well. It’s not a matter of finding the best medium. It’s about developing the optimal mix.

Bill Hanifin
10 years 7 months ago

Newspapers came in second as a trustworthy source! That might be the most interesting fact from the survey.

I still see many moms with coupons in their hands. Maybe it is that they “know” they have a deal when it is in their purse. Possibly, reading about the deal online is more for reference and less tangible.

Recommendations from Friends and Family seem to be the most solid source of confidence for purchase decisions, but each of those friends/family members has to get their information somewhere, presumably from the internet or an in store display.

Is it possible that consumers are adopting the herd mentality to make most purchase decisions?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 7 months ago

I’ve been expecting research findings like these for years, so I’m predisposed to embrace them. There’s simply too much disillusionment provided and found online, and I’m proud of our youngsters for finally getting it.

Let’s be proud of American consumers who consult more than one source for product/service information. And let’s be grateful that we have access to several media sources. No censorship like that found in China, N. Korea, India, Iran, Venezuela, and other countries.

George Whalin
George Whalin
10 years 7 months ago

I am not surprised by the results of this study. What is so surprising is how many people responsible for marketing a business think that social media and blogs are the ultimate marketing tools. I think Max Goldberg said it as well as it can be said earlier on RetailWire when he wrote “Social media is not the end all and be all of marketing.”

Traditional marketing from radio to television to direct mail are still very effective. If a marketer is paying attention it’s easy to see which savvy marketers including small, medium and large retailers are using these traditional marketing tools to generate sales and grow their businesses. Is there a place for social media and blogs? Absolutely, they are new tools that must be tested, tried and payed attention to for marketers.

Jerry Gelsomino
10 years 7 months ago

I think the consumer is doing a more efficient job of defining what they use technology for and don’t want to mix promotion with work, serious fun, or communication. “Don’t interrupt me with your ads, I’ll look them in my own time and place. I can simply discard online promotions, and I will!”


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