Affinity marketing is a concept that consists of a partnership between a company and an organization that gathers persons sharing the same interests (known as an affinity group) to bring a vaster consumer base to the opposite party. The first academic approach of affinity marketing has been provided by Macchiette and Roy in 1992 and they described this notion as a combination of affinity and the marketing ideas. They defined the word Affinity as "an individual level of cohesiveness, social bonding, identification and conformity to the norms and standards of a particular reference group" whereas marketing is described to be the "expectation of benefit for the individual satisfying consumer wants and needs". An affinity group is a group which has a solid connection with a considerable number of consumers and which has the possibility to target them in a much easier way than what can be accomplished by way of ordinary marketing process. Affinity groups in which people recognize themselves may be a charitable organization, a football team, the enterprise they work for, a specific company, an organization they belong to... Thus, Affinity group members may be fans, customers, subscribers, staff members...
Affinity marketing differs from co-branding. The benefits of co-branding partnerships come from the consequences of the association of multiple companies, whereas the benefits of affinity marketing derive from the mental satisfaction to have profited the affinity group.
Having an essential function in affinity marketing, the nature of the customer is indispensable for understanding the concept. In other words, it is important to know in what way or manner the relationship was built and to know which affinity group the customer belongs to. When segmenting the market, the affinity marketers also need to take into account the amount of people who are composing the group, group members' solvency and the receptivity to the goods and services offered. Further, in analyzing affinity marketing one needs to acknowledge the power and nature of affinity. An affinity marketing strategy is focused on one of the four different aspects of affinity. First, affinity is related to the support of a deserving cause. Second, affinity is based on relationships creating a sense of recognition in an organization that doesn't necessary have to exist (for instance a country, a family or an animal). Third, affinity comes from a sense of desiring to be part of a dissimilar social group (aspirational). Last, affinity is correlated to the wish for personally acquiring discounts, or privileges from goods and services sold by a specific organization (self-interest). But a few affinity groups use more than one of these facets to achieve their marketing scheme. For instance, very enthusiastic baseball fans support their team for a deserving cause, identify themselves in their team, and personally benefit from discounts and advantages.
Affinity marketing schemes are characterised by three specific features:
- "The third party endorsement" happens when the company has built a strong relationship with the affinity group's leader who is going to advertise the service or product to its members. Company's leader or representatives generally send a personal written communication to the affinity group affiliate which strengthen credibility and consumer's affiliation.
- "The shared incentives concept" describes the main motivations facing the affinity group and the organizations involved.
- "The enhancement package" consists in designing the product in a way that it meets exactly the consumer's needs.
The example of credit cards used by football teams' fans help to figure out affinity marketing's characteristics. The first feature as it is stated above is the third party endorsement. In this case, the fact of endorsing the club's logo is just considered as licensed based marketing. It is only when the third-party or the affinity group is involved that it becomes an affinity marketing scheme. So the team's manager or captain sends a personalized letter to his fans spurring them to use the credit card. Then, the second feature includes the shared incentives concept which can be in this example the utilization of the credit card and the enhancement of the brand fidelity for the bank. The football team for its part, benefits from profit share, more games and products sales. Finally, the enhancement package can consist of loyalty rewards distributed after using the card a certain amount of times.
There are plenty of benefits for all bodies when employing an affinity marketing strategy.
The supplier sells at lower price his products because he reduces his expenses in marketing research. He also profits from the customer's increase in fidelity. By joining the affinity partner, the supplier strengthens his reputation. Furthermore, he knows better his target audience simplified by the fact that he has access to the affinity group's information and has the opportunity to carry out some research programs with its members.
Each affinity group is seeking for different advantages. But usually, affinity groups increase their income by asking a commission for example. Affinity groups have also a better connection and affinity with their members. Finally, they protect and enhance their reputation without taking any risks as well as avoiding the costs involved in merchandising directly the product or service.
Suppliers and affinity groups are not the only parties profiting from this marketing scheme. End-consumers benefit from it, but their benefits depend on the nature of the affinity partner (charitable organization) and the nature of the product or service sold. Again, generally customers are directly satisfied to profit from extra discounts for example, and they become more confident in their choices because of the partnership between their affinity group and the company. Furthermore, they benefit from products and services that have been designed and manufactured especially for them.
Failure and limitations
When employing an affinity marketing program it is not always assured that the scheme is going to succeed. It is due to the fact that some organizations totally refuse to endorse the brand of a company and consider such a partnership as a violation of their dignity. A total affinity marketing scheme failure is also explained by a bad timing in the sense that some companies choose to target the customers at the wrong time. For example, summer and Christmas are not the right moments to focus on pupils and academic staff because of the holiday. Another reason for this lack of success is that the target audience's income is not sufficient for the products offered. Moreover, many affinity marketing efforts fail to tailor the promoted goods and services to that affinity group's specific needs.
In the context of e-commerce, affinity marketing consists in sharing referrals by promoting icons and links connected to other websites that meet the customers' needs. The aim of employing affinity marketing schemes on the internet is to increase sales, enhance website visibility, encourage traffic. Search engines are involved in affinity marketing by selling links when users type keywords. As e-commerce websites tend to increasingly segment the market, some applications analyze the customers' online conduct in order to personalize them and offer them tailored products.
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