The Big(ger) Marketing Shift

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If there are a few things that are certain in Marketing, it is that we are seeing a ton of new tactics enter the fray, we have more data on these new tactics than ever before, and it’s fairly difficult to pull back and see the bigger picture.

In this past week, there were three significant pieces of news that – when pulled together – paint a fairly dramatic picture of the changing Marketing landscape. First, Marketing Charts reported on November 8th, 2010 in the news item, 9 In 10 Young Adults Trust Advertising, that "nine in ten young adults aged 18-34 say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims at least sometimes (90%), fewer older adults agree: 86% of those 35-44 say this, as do 84% of those 45-54, and 81% of those 55 years and older. Conversely, almost one in five adults 55 and older say that they never trust that advertising is honest (18%), compared to less than one in ten 18-34 year olds who say the same (8%)." While the news item doesn’t delve into guessing why this is happening, Social Media and the digital platforms are key to this. The more astute you are to the online channels (and tactics like consumer reviews), the more you begin to realize that brands can’t hide. Bazaarvoice says that between 75% – 80% of all online shoppers read online customer reviews (or peer reviews). Before buying anything, consumers know what they’re getting into and because this content exists, it’s increasingly more difficult for a brand to sell a sub-par product or service.

Trust is happening in advertising, but it’s hard to make people loyal (and to keep them that way).

For a while, I’ve been Blogging about trust and how that seems to be table stakes for brands today. They have to be trustworthy to even have a purchase consideration happen. Leveraging Social Media, some brands are getting a semblance of engagement, but community (real community) is not happening all that often. If I Blog, then you comment and I respond, that’s not community. That’s engagement. If I Blog, then you comment and them someone else responds to you, those are the first indicators that a community may actually be forming. MediaPost‘s Research Brief had a news item on November 9th, 2010, titled, A Loyal Follower Is Hard To Find (And Keep), that stated: "According to the 2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study, loyal followers can be hard to come by for companies trying to reach consumers online. New media users still choose to demonstrate affinity (‘like’ or ‘follow’ or subscribe to RSS feed) for an average of only 4.6 companies online, making this an exclusive club. Consumers are more open than ever to engaging with companies via new media (86% vs. 78% in 2009), but it still takes a big effort on the part of the company to reach the upper echelons of the consideration set. To stand out, companies need to incentivize new followers." Yes, loyalty and keeping people around is as simple as it was in the early days of Marketing: give them free stuff and/or incentivize them, otherwise they are gone. It takes a strong, strong brand to build true engagement and it takes an even stronger brand to build long-term loyalty and evangelism.

On top of that, consumers are now everywhere and anywhere.

The last new item comes from eMarketer. On November 9th, 2010, they released the article, For College Students, Mobile Web Is The Norm. This should come as little-to-no surprise that, "according to the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology by Shannon D. Smith and Judith Borreson Caruso for the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 62.7% of US undergraduates surveyed had an internet-capable handheld device. That number fell about halfway between the 83.8% who had a laptop and the 45.9% with a desktop PC. Ownership of internet-enabled handheld devices increased by more than 11 percentage points between 2009 and spring 2010, with the number of students planning to purchase such a device in the next year holding steady. The study was fielded before the release of the iPad, which many students expressed a specific interest in purchasing." And, let’s face it, it’s not just college students. More and more people are untethering from their desktop and laptop computers. They are constantly connected to the digital channels and have access to information (yes, this includes brands, products and services) at their fingertips.

The consumers have changed. Marketing must change.

Too many brands are focused on the wrong things. They’re spending their days worrying about their Twitter and/or Facebook strategy when they need to be re-analyzing how the consumer now considers their products/services for purchase. Think about this new world: consumers trust advertising (just a little bit more than they used to). They’re constantly sourcing reviews that have been written by their peers. With all of that information, it still takes a great deal to make consumers love a brand – so much that they will become (and remain) and loyal. Brand evangelism isn’t cheap, easy or sustainable. Couple all of that information with the fact that they’re not just sitting idly by and waiting for your messages, but they’re active and on the go as well.

Now, ask yourself this question: is your overall Marketing and Communications strategy really speaking to this kind of consumer? What are you going to do about it?


  1. Yes. Yes. Yes. Great packaging of three relevant data points to paint the future of marketing. As a marketing executive and current Social Media Director, I can not tell you how prevalent the disconnect between effective marketing and social media are. (As captured with many conversations of my peers in the industry.)
    The simple answers is to follow sound marketing fundamentals that concentrate on the target audience (traits, behaviors, motivations, turn offs) and apply new technologies as appropriate. As Brian Solis says, “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” I see marketing as the sociology and psychology of business. Thus there is an intersection of marketing and social media that is too often being ignored as people look to the just tweet it and FB post it mentality.
    Thanks Mitch – great stuff,
    Social Steve

  2. “Too many brands are focused on the wrong things. They’re spending their days worrying about their Twitter and/or Facebook strategy when they need to be re-analyzing how the consumer now considers their products/services for purchase.”
    When you re-frame the conversation this way, the “ROI of social media” pretty much goes away. Start with re-analyzing how the customer considers their products/services for purchase. Then build a strategy that aligns. If social media fits as an execution of the strategy – you’ve got your ROI.

  3. Cool article Mitch. There is great insight in your analysis. Clearly consumers are changing the way they connect and evaluate brands during their decision making process. Trust comes from truth in a message. This brand truth is confirmed from online reviews. Marketers today should be re-deploying their resources to connect with consumers using the few remaining efficient traditional media platforms while at the same time building social media communities beyond a fan page or twitter account.
    I posted a related article about 3 keys to choosing the right “angle of pursuit” to reach customers on my

  4. I’m still surprised that the number of people who trust advertisers is that high. So many people I talk to are still reluctant to trust advertising messages that weren’t accompanied by a peer recommendation.
    As more and more companies try to integrate deeper into their consumer base and build stronger communities, trust will be the factor that bridges the gaps.
    What most companies have now is engagement, as you say. Engagement is just a step to loyalty. What companies need to do is ingrain their product deep in the community and consumer psyche. Therein lies the real challenge for marketers. How do you touch the masses in an individualistic way? I would argue one at a time but that is horribly inefficient. But you still must start with a small few and let them help. Then nurture the growth, foster it, care for it, and set it loose.
    As the business to community revolution evolves, so will the challenges.

  5. Your bit on building a community, not just engagement, really resonated with me. The main goal shouldn’t be having followers or fans, but really connecting with your readers, clients, whoever. Excellent stuff.

  6. Great stuff Mitch! Trust must be a theme that is making its rounds and heavy on people’s minds. I just blogged about the last couple of days as well.

  7. Mitch I slammed that Harris Study on Marketing Charts. It is a 100% condemnation that people do not trust advertising. What is Trusting ‘Some of the Time”? 10%? 20%. Definitely less than 50%. In fact if you read the headline then read the first line they say opposite of each other. And then when you read the chart it says exactly different stuff.
    I am not disagreeing with your post here. In fact I agree with it. Just not that data source. In fact Matt McDougal of Powered added a nice comment on the bad research. Will email you the link since I don’t post links on others blogs out of respect.

  8. “it’s increasingly more difficult for a brand to sell a sub-par product or service.”
    That’s my exact thought as well, this can potentially mean a lot of things, hopefully a more rewarding user experience, but also a lot more responsibility thrown on people who actually have to make everything work, often with sub-par budgets to keep the costs low. I am curious to see where this will lead us.

  9. Your comment about engagement vs. community…so lucid.
    In the era of short attention spans and a multitude of choices is it necessary(or viable in terms of ROI) for brands to chase community building? Is it a better option to be satisfied with engagement as a more realistic goal/strategy?

  10. Agreed. Make your content more findable. Make your content more valuable than a Marketing message. Engage with the audience that is listening and sharing, and then keep your finger’s crossed that they will be become more loyal and connected to your brand. Seems simple enough… tragically difficult for most brands to execute on.

  11. Richard Binhammer over at Dell talks about figuring out the business objectives first, and then deciding if there are tools/platforms within Social Media that can help you accomplish those goals faster and with more efficacy. As he says (and yes, I agree with him), there usually is something within Social Media that can help you reach those goals.
    The ROI follows when you bundle that into everything else.

  12. It’s something to think about. Do the hard of work of the brand in the online channels where the conversation is and should be and do the more generic branding of the messaging in the more traditional mass media channels (TV, print, OOH, etc…).

  13. Could the bridge between “one at a time” and the traditional mass media be the online channels and Social Media? I think it might/could be. If you think about the ability to have these more real interactions with real human beings online, and how they are scalable and distributable (because others can see the content and engage in it too), you begin to see how the brand is that much about an eco-system than it is about being channel specific.

  14. Most brands have a few followers and they want to know how to get more followers. The sad realty is that they have no idea who those followers actually are… they just want numbers. Focus on “who” and not “how many”. When brands do that, the needle can move.

  15. Howie, feel free to post the link here (you’re all good in my books ;).
    The data is always reflective of the source and even more tweaked for the news source that smells something interesting.
    It was definitely one of those headlines that made me tilt my head to the side and raise an eyebrow. Thanks for pointing out the facts in the data.

  16. It’s probably not one or the other but more like a progression.
    Something like: the ability to share, the ability to have some back and forth and then if people come into the fray and connect to one another, we suddenly have the initial sparks of a community. I would never take the option off the table, I would just be more realistic and pragmatic about the evolution.

  17. It sounds like we are talking about mapping the Buyer’s Journey. If we can understand who you are, what motivates you, and most importantly, what you are thinking as you approach the buying decision, we have a good idea of the channels you might choose. Now we neeto focus on what message will drive you to seek opinions earlier. On the b2c side, I see seeking opinions as an important step in the sales funnel.

  18. … or what it will take to make you more loyal, active and engaged with a brand.
    I’d also add that it’s not just B2C… I think this is all equally applicable to building a strong B2B business as well.

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