Building a business out of confusion

Letter of the month prize. Every month the editor will award this de luxe fountain pen to the writer of the best letter. The chrome and 22ct gold pen, made by AT Cross, is worth 85. The editor’s judgment will be final.

I was impressed to see Marketing Week credited in The Sunday Times with identifying the emergence of “Confusion Marketing”. Interestingly, this is a phenomenon that we have been observing for some time in business to business, where it seems to be particularly prevalent.

The theory of confusion marketing is that by overwhelming the customer with a plethora of variable benefits that make direct comparison between brands difficult, the supplier can influence purchase in other, more qualitative ways.

However, I suspect this is a very convenient way of post-rationalising what has happened and that baffling customers has never been an explicit strategy.

There are two main drivers at work: over-segmentation of markets and poor product positioning where features do not constitute meaningful benefits. This is not confusion marketing – it’s confused marketing and, sadly, describes a large amount of business-to-business advertising.

What about “Ignorance Marketing”, “Wish-list Marketing” and “I Think We Got Away With It Marketing”? The text books must be ready for these too.

Evan Ivey

Planning director

Aspen Business Communications

London NW1

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