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Studies examine ‘C-level’ mindset

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CXOs. Top management. The C-level. No matter what label you slap on it, the executive suite has become an increasingly important b-to-b marketing target as technology has made businesses more integrated, requiring that more decisions come from the top.

The difficulty is buying the right media to reach this elusive target. Two new studies shed some light on reaching the C-level target.

Both Omincom Group’s Doremus Advertising and Forbes.com have recently released research about the media habits of CEOs and other top executives.

Surprising lack of reliance

Doremus surveyed 351 executives for the report, called "C6," and discovered much about the media use of these business leaders. One of the key findings of the report, said Jeff DeJoseph, Doremus’ chief strategic officer, is the lack of reliance by top executives on the big three business books: BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes.

"The surprise was the fact that the typical business books weren’t on everybody’s list as the top reads," he said.

The only dominant publication was The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper had 92% readership among the executives surveyed, and 57% considered it a "must read." Fewer than one in four respondents considered the major business magazines a "must read."

"The essential media are the vertical industry trade books in their business," DeJoseph said.

Other data from the Doremus survey indicated that C-level executives can be reached outside of traditional business-oriented media. Some of the findings included:

• 42% of respondents said they pay more attention to media when they travel.

• 44% said sports scores and news are key things they keep on top of regardless of where they are.

• 70% watch sports at least once or twice a week.

• 65% watch documentaries at least once or twice a week.

• 68% listen to news radio, and 48% listen to National Public Radio.

In addition to examining media used by C-level executives, the study identified six basic top management psychographics:

• The "entrepreneurial achiever" is reachable via cell phone, schedules with his Palm Pilot and works for a new-economy company.

• The "Zen master" leaves the office by 6 p.m., takes two or three vacations a year, and reads The Economist and Barron’s.

• The "career prisoner" works until 11 p.m., loads his briefcase with journals he’ll never get around to reading, and works for the government or a non-profit.

• The "superficial soundbiter" has his assistant compile a list of headlines daily, made $1 million by the time he was 40 and works in the construction business.

• The "contented mensch" watches the TV news after work, coaches Little League and reads sports magazines.

• The "technophobe" would rather send a memo than an e-mail, doesn’t use a Palm Pilot and watches "The West Wing."

These profiles can be used, DeJoseph said, in much the same way that consumer advertisers use psychographics to market their products. B-to-b marketers can use these CEO archetypes to identify the mindset of C-level managers who might be disposed to an advertiser’s message. Then the message can be crafted and the medium selected that is most likely to reach that target.

More Internet than TV

The Forbes.com survey, which queried 286 C-level executives culled from Forbes.com registrants, provides a slightly different picture of top management’s media habits.

The survey found, for instance, that C-level executives spend an average of 16 hours a week on the Internet (excluding e-mail). This figure was significantly higher than time spent with television (8.6 hours), magazines (6.6 hours), newspapers (6.6 hours) and radio (5.7 hours).

The study’s respondents indicated that they rely heavily on Internet and magazine advertising. Asked to indicate the one or more ways they preferred to find out about new products, 73% of respondents said they preferred the Internet, while 57% said the same was true of magazines.

The same percentage of respondents, 62%, identified magazines and the Internet as having advertising that is rich in information. The same percentage of respondents, again 62%, said that both Internet and magazine advertising helped them decide what to buy.

But magazines (72%) topped the Internet (60%) when respondents were asked if the medium had "advertising that is relevant to me."

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