The Mall, Internet Shopping and Push Marketing

Aug 08, 2011 Beth Monaghan


I hate shopping. Don’t get me wrong. I like to buy things. I just want them to be delivered to my door. My in-store experience encompasses a wide range of personality-changing encounters. I’m either dressed for work and being called to by the woman at the Dead Sea Spa kiosk with the “can I ask you a question” opener, or trying to buy a handbag from four affectedly bored sales people at Saks Fifth Avenue who are willfully ignoring me because I am wearing a fleece streaked with my daughter’s lunch. And if I must exit through the cosmetics entrance at Macy’s I tamp down the urge to punch the woman trying to spray me with Clinique Happy.

I have retreated to online shopping where I can find what I am looking for quickly, go elsewhere in one click if it’s sold out, and ask for help when and if I need it. Recently, I was forced into the mall because my MacBook Air’s spine was broken, so I had an appointment at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar that I had happily made online. I had 45 minutes to kill while my assigned Genius revived my best friend.

As I wandered through the Chestnut Hill Mall I was the sole shopper in every store except the Apple store, which was crowded. Now Apple does make beautiful, shiny toys that everyone wants, but I think there’s more to it. People are in the Apple store because they need expertise. I needed a Genius to fix my laptop. In every other store, I was just trying to avoid sales people who were trying to sell me things I didn’t want. What value are they offering?

Value often feels like a tired word to me. We talk about creating value for every kind of organization on the planet, but in the case of the Apple store, value makes the difference between engagement and avoidance. Apple is offering something that people value…and need. People come to them in droves. All they have to do is be ready with their iPads and iPhones.

Marketing used to be all about push. Like the Dead Sea Spa saleswoman, marketing would thrust messages onto passersby through ads, direct mail, email campaigns, billboards, and more with ever-evolving strategies to get people to take the bait. And certainly, we still must work hard to get our messages out there, and these vehicles still have an important place in the marketing mix.

But let’s consider the definition of “push” according to

  1. to press upon or against (a thing) with force in order to move it away.
  2. to move (something) in a specified way by exerting force; shove; drive: to push something aside; to push the door open.
  3. to effect or accomplish by thrusting obstacles aside: to push one's way through the crowd.
  4. to cause to extend or project; thrust.
  5. to press or urge to some action or course: His mother pushed him to get a job.

None of these definitions make “push” sound like a good thing – it’s more of a thing done against someone’s will. The beauty of marketing in a social world is that we don’t have to push so hard. In fact, we have nearly immediate opportunities for feedback and conversation. We can offer ideas, share our campaigns, receive feedback and enter into conversations that simply weren’t possible before.

I am a believer in the Internet for virtually everything I do, personally and professionally, but if you wax sentimental for the unexpected distractions of a good old fashioned trip to the mall, spend a few hours on TwitterMartha Stewart’s pic of her most recent dinner is just a click away. And just yesterday, Biz Stone from Twitter showed her how to make one of his favorite vegan recipes, seitan bourguignon. I rest my case.


Topics: Public Relations, Twitter, Social Media
Beth Monaghan

Since the early days working around her kitchen table, Beth has grown Inkhouse into one of the top independent PR agencies in the country. She’s been named a Top Woman in PR by PR News, a Top 25 Innovator by PRovoke, and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth designed Inkhouse’s signature Storytelling Workshop to mirror the literary hero’s journey and to unearth the emotional connections that bind an audience to a brand or idea. She also uses narratives to build Inkhouse’s culture, most recently through two books of employee essays, “Hindsight 2020” and “Aren’t We Lucky?”

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