A question I'm often asked is, "What are the TV shows, cable networks and radio formats that rich people prefer?" Unfortunately, that's a question that has no answer. The simple truth is that mass media reaches the masses far better than it targets the rich.
Few advertisers realize the degree to which wealthy people are insulated from the marketing efforts that target them. Who do you suppose is most likely to own a TiVo device that allows them to fast-forward through TV commercials? Who is most likely to have a satellite radio in their car, along with a state-of-the-art CD player and a vast collection of commercial-free CDs? Who do you think has a secretary to screen their incoming calls and open their mail and throw away all the solicitations?
You guessed it: the rich.
Time and money are interchangeable. You can always save one by spending more of the other. The rich have always had more money than time. And now they've accumulated these new technologies that allow them to better hide from unwanted intrusions.
To be able to reach the rich, you must learn to pull instead of push. Here's how to do it:
1. Hang out in their hangouts. Familiarity is the product of repetitious proximity. In 1924, young and destitute Aristotle Onassis found the investment capital he needed after becoming a regular in an exclusive bar. The clothing he purchased and the drinks he bought to fit in took all the money he had, but his bizarre gamble paid off. Backed by the cash of his new pals, Onassis became the Bill Gates of his generation.
2. Become useful to them. If you can't be where the rich and famous are, be in a position to do them favors. America knows the name Harry Winston because of the spectacular diamond necklaces he loans to young starlets to wear at the Academy Awards. The hugely expensive necklaces always get media attention. The canny result is that his jewelry store gets far more effective exposure each year than he might have purchased with $10 million dollars in advertising.
3. Put your product where they can see it. In a May 29, 2005, story in The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer quotes Juliet B. Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College: "In the last 30 years or so, as people have become increasingly isolated from their neighbors, a barrage of magazines and television shows celebrating the toys and totems of the rich has fostered a whole new level of desire across class groups..."
The fastest growing category in the world of marketing is called "product placement." For a price, your product can be written into the script of a TV show or major motion picture. Do you remember the year James Bond began driving a new BMW convertible? Or the Seinfeld episode where George buys a cashmere sweater in a trendy boutique? These things don't happen by accident. And when your product is in the show instead of in an ad, you're immune from TiVo fast-forwarding.
4. Target through copy. In your product category, what are the phrases the rich will likely type into a search engine? Have you seeded these phrases throughout your website? Pre-purchase research is increasingly being done online instead of in the store. So think of your site as a half step between the homes of the rich and your front door. How strong is the magnetism of your site?
5. Pull, don't push. Wealthy people are constantly assaulted by hype and overstatement from advertisers who get anxious and nervous, thinking, "Now's my big chance." But patience is the key to success with this group. Do you have what it takes?
Now that I've told you how to reach the rich, let me tell you why it isn't necessary. In that New York Times story mentioned earlier, Jennifer Steinhauer goes on to say that "Social class, once so easily assessed by the car in the driveway or the purse on the arm, has become harder to see in the things Americans buy. Rising incomes, flattening prices and easily available credit have given so many Americans access to such a wide array of high-end goods that traditional markers of status have lost much of their meaning."
According to Professor Schor, "A 'horizontal desire,' coveting a neighbor's goods, has been replaced by a 'vertical desire,' coveting the goods of the rich and the powerful seen on television. The old system was keeping up with the Joneses. The new system is keeping up with the Gateses."
Today a middle-income office manager may save her money to buy a single luxury item, like a Chanel jacket, the same one worn by a wealthy woman who has a dozen others like it in her $2.5 million house. While it may feel good to have the truly rich woman as a customer, you don't want to lose sight of the fact that for every one of her, there are at least 250 of those middle-income managers anxious to buy that same Chanel jacket.
Will you sell to the classes and live with the masses? Or will you sell to the masses and live with the classes? It's your decision.