Introduction of internet and social media
Since the introduction and expansion of internet 20 years ago and social medias rapid development in the past 10 years the way of marketing has dramatically changed and will continue to evolve in perhaps an even faster way.
This opens up possibilities but also challenges for the marketer embarking on his journey in the WEB 2.0 world.
As more branding activity moves online, marketers are confronted with the realization that brands are not always welcome in social media. Has the consumer influence over producers changed since the introduction of Internet and social media?
If so, who and what is the implication to the future ways of doing business and the role of the consumer?
What does it mean to marketers of today working with brand management and trying to keep up with the new reality?
Consumers has evolved from being disconnected and reactive to messages and promotions pushed by the producer to a proactive influencer. Having the possibility to interact with other consumers and producers has made the user a proactive influencer. Who can interact with other consumers and produces in order to affect the perception of the product.
This changed due to creation of collaborative platforms on the internet and social media. This platforms enables consumers not only to write reviews but actually have a two way dialog. The ability to reach lot of potential customers has changed the power of a buyer to influence perception of brands. Both enhance but also on a negative way impact the positioning of a certain product. The behavior is of course most frequent in B2C due to the fact that the amount of transactions is higher. The same phenomena can be seen in the B2B area with user interest groups and similar voicing their opinion on a certain service or product.
The shift in interaction
There is a shift from transactional focus to building relationship with customers and having interaction over time.
Labrecque discuss this and launches a model with four consumer powers that has changed over time. Starting with demand power going to information based power(individual based power sources) and as next step to network and crowd based (network based sources). Examples of crowd based power are Wikipedia, Soundcloud, crowd funding, where you have the ability to pool, mobilize and structure resources in ways that benefits both individuals and groups.
It also opens the opportunity to invite lead users to participate in the development of new products. Bringing in lead users in the development process generally strengthens the demand for the final product.
Henning and Thurau go even further in their reasoning. Their conclusion is that the initial producer might later on not be a part of the further development of the product at all.
Will we in the future see more of a symbiosis between product/service providers and end users?
How will this affect the way products and services are developed and the structure of companies doing so?
I believe the answer to both questions is yes and we in the coming 10 years will see a substantial change in the development process. This will change the way of structuring a company or a value chain to retrieve the final result.
Marketing in the digital age
Given the above evolution there are also many challenges with marketing in the web 2.0 environment. Internet was not created to sell products, but to link people together in collective conversational webs.
As marketing moves online, marketers are confronted with the realization that brands are not always welcome in social media. Most brands seem inauthentic and out of place. The technology that was supposed to empower marketers has empowered the consumers instead.
According to Barwise and Meehan (2010): The one thing you must get right when building a brand.
The companies that succeed in this environment judiciously revise the marketing playbook rather than rewriting it. Exploit social media opportunities while keeping an unwavering focus on meeting customer needs.
Brands should use new media to deliver on four basics
- To offer and communicate a clear, relevant customer promise
- They build trust by delivering on that promise
- Drive the market by continually improving the promise
- Seek further advantage by innovating beyond the familiar.
What has changed?
Marketing has not fundamentally changed with the arrival of internet and social media. However, the channel and the way to leverage from it has changed and it need to be acknowledged.
It is no longer just to push a message to potential buyers that cannot respond. It is more of emphasizing the brand values and what it stands for that is important. To provide forums or platforms for open dialogue and feedback in order to even further improve the brand promise based on consumer experience.
With that said it also mean that the need to deliver on the customer promise cannot be overlooked and especially if you are a premium brand. Failure to do so will quickly erode the brand positioning a premium margins. It is no longer possible to hide failures by keeping quiet.
Where do marketing go next?
Singh & Sonnerberg in their article about brand performance in social media are even going further claiming that it is not enough that brands build relationships with consumers, they also have to develop relationships among consumers.
This make good sense since a happy customer advocating your product to other potential consumers is a very powerful channel.
The WEB 2.0 is here and will soon have evolved into 2.1 so the challenge for marketers is to upgrade to marketer 2.0 and be prepared for the 2.1 version to be compatible with the channels of his/her time.
George Christidoulides (2009): Branding in the post internet era
Singh and sonnerberg(2012): Brand performance in social media
Lipiäinen and Karjaluto(2015): Industrial branding in the digital age
Barwise and Meehan (2010): The one thing you must get right when building a brand
Susan Fournier and Jill Avery (2011): The uninvited brand
Labrecque et al_2013: consumer power Evolution in the Digital Age
Henning-Thurau et al (2010): Impact of new media on customer relationships
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