Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Article of the Day: Web Marketing to a Segment Too Big to Be a Niche

I thought this was an interesting article/idea from today's New York Times...

Maybe it's just because I in the marketing mix professionally, but it is crazy to see what marketing has come to encompass over the years -- reaching into "niche" markets we didn't even know existed... but what about the mainstream "niches" that still are left unnoticed? Shouldn't marketers answer to them too?

A recently launched Website, Disaboom.com, addresses the need for the disabled community to have a social/community networking site, just like the rest of us with our beloved Facebook and MySpace. Except this site is also coupled with information of interest to its readers: medical news, career advice, dating resources and travel tips. (They also recently acquired lovebyrd.com, a dating Web site for people with disabilities).

Among some of the advertisers who have signed contracts with the starting “boom” of Disaboom: Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, Avis, Cricket Communications and Ford Motor Company.

With this launch, Ford is highlighting its $1,000 allowance for new car buyers to avoid costs of adding adaptive equipment like wheelchair or scooter lifts, steering wheel knobs and pedal extensions. What a great and powerful opportunity for this struggling company to help generate revenue and do something socially responsible.

Advertisers are smart for jumping on the bandwagon, too. People with mobility challenges are active consumers. A 2005 Harris Interactive study commissioned by Open Doors found that 69 percent of adults with disabilities — more than 21 million people — had traveled for either business or pleasure at least once in the preceding two years. In that same period, more than half had stayed in hotels, while 31 percent had booked at least one flight and 20 percent had rented a car. More than 75 percent of people with disabilities dine out at least once a week.

Disaboom's Web presence also hopes to affect the means of communication between people with disabilities – organizing them to make one voice resound within business and government.

I found this excerpt from the article especially interesting:
"There are few media outlets that specifically aim at the disabled population, but advertisers like McDonald’s, Verizon Wireless, Sears and Honda have featured people with disabilities in their mainstream advertising. Target features disabled models in sales circulars; Kohl’s department stores use mannequins in wheelchairs in store displays. Although some of these efforts may prompt accusations of political correctness, advocates for people with disabilities say they welcome the ads."

“If you’re watching a commercial for a bank or a wireless phone carrier and you see someone in a wheelchair who is just part of the scene or background, it helps create a message that people with handicaps are integrated in society,” said Mr. Imparato, of the American Association of People With Disabilities. “Part of what that does is it normalizes having a disability.”

Now that's something we can all afford to think a little bit more about in our everyday lives. Is everyone's voice truly being represented in the mainstream? Continuing to represent all and keeping these fresh marketing ideas coming makes for an innovative way to let all voices be heard.

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