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Has Channel Blindness become the new NASCAR Blindness?

Author: Annette Pannier, Navigate Marketing Group.

The phrase NASCAR blindness” was coined by Alan Wolk in 2008. Wolk used it to describe what he saw as a “common symptom of something that greatly afflicts people in the advertising community – the strongly held belief that if no one in your bubble is into something, then clearly no one else is.” Wolk goes on to explain, “It’s what lead advertisers to completely ignore NASCAR for many years, dismissing it as some bizarre redneck affectation missing the opportunity to bond with millions of middle-class fans who enjoyed auto racing.”

Now, 10+ years later, advertisers are all over NASCAR, yet the symptom remains. Not in the form of NASCAR blindness, but in the form of “channel blindness.” Channel blindness, as I see it, is a common symptom that afflicts the young and old marketer alike. It is the strongly held belief that if you’re not into certain marketing channels, then no one clearly is or should be.  

Marketing Networks

With young marketers, channel blindness can arise during a recommendation for TV, radio, direct mail, outdoor, or print advertising and it takes the form of eye-rolls, muffled laughs, or a quick glance at your phone hoping to mask any facial cues indicating a lack of enthusiasm.

For the more seasoned marketer, channel blindness can come into play when a recommendation for a new product launch doesn’t include a four-page glossy brochure and it takes the form of serious digging in, a history lesson, and getting the sales team on your side.

Wolk’s remedy for NASCAR blindness was listening – trying to figure out how to talk to your customer on his or her own terms.  The remedy for channel blindness is similar with a bit more depth – embracing a customer-centric approach to the entire experience. A customer-centric approach requires thinking deeply about what the customer is trying to accomplish and creating new ways to add value to their experience. Then, and only then, determining the right message and the right channel in which to do it.

A customer-centric approach to marketing opens our eyes to the best ways to lead customers where we want them to go – toward purchase, loyalty, and advocacy. It opens our eyes to the channels our customers prefer in their journey to know, like, and trust us. It opens our eyes to an engaging and sustainable customer experience.

Marketing Audience

As marketers, we have an obligation to stay current, to step outside our comfort zones, and thoughtfully evaluate all options in which to distribute our message based on the customer’s preference, not our own. And we have a responsibility to see NASCAR-like opportunities for exactly what they are – a way to connect with customers on his or her own terms.

Annette Pannier is a 30-year marketing and business veteran. Through her expertise in strategy, brand development, marketing, and customer engagement she provides her clients with the confidence, foundation, and tools to manage their marketing and communications more effectively.