The current barrage of advertising targeting frenzied Christmas shoppers may not reap the desired result, according to two University of Notre Dame marketing professors.
For more than 50 years, business observers have argued that satisfying customers is the key to success. However, marketing is apparently falling short in the eyes of American households. A long-term study conducted by Michael Etzel, professor of marketing, and John Gaski, associate professor of marketing, indicates that overall sentiment toward the practice of marketing has remained negative for more than 20 years. Of the marketing dimensions examined, only retail service is viewed as slightly positive, while performance related to product quality, prices and advertising continues to disappoint consumers.
Etzel and Gaski have tracked consumer attitudes toward marketing every year since 1984, using a 20-item survey they created and administered in cooperation with the Synovate polling organization. Their 2006 study indicates that, while overall sentiments have improved over time, consumers continue to express concerns about the kinds of advertising they see on TV. When incorporating secondary data from the 1970s, the authors find a similar 30-year trend. Interestingly, the sentiment toward marketing practices improves with lower inflation and reduced personal saving.
“As consumers save less and spend more, they appear to be less critical of marketing,” Gaski said.
The project raises fundamental questions about the widely espoused primacy of satisfying customers.
“It may be conceptually attractive but too difficult to implement, or managers may have found a different approach to be more successful,” Etzel explained. “Of course, there is also the possibility that consumers’ expectations are unrealistic. Whatever the cause, the divergence deserves examination.”
The Notre Dame-Synovate Index of Consumer Sentiment Toward Marketing was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.