The holy grail of Marketing has been to be able to reach to large number of potential customers in a meaningful way. Historically, media has provided mass coverage but very low engagement. Mass media works to fill a specific information gap but marketing has moved beyond that. The more engaging channels like events and community outreach programs have limited reach. new media has also disrupted it and presented marketers greater opportunity. Overall, I would divide the major trends into 3 primary categories:
1. Customer engagement, NOT brand awareness
Traditionally, marketers have focused on metrics like customer reach out or awareness of the brand or products. Marketers have been focused on passing the brand messages across to the customers in large numbers. Now, this isn’t sufficient and focus has to be on how you can engage the customer rather than simply reaching out.
One major trend is that outreach of customers to marketers is becoming more important than marketer’s outreach to customers and hence, marketing needs to provide various “touch points” in customer decision cycle to build customer engagement. Brands do that with social media connect, try and buy models (e.g., Freemium) or even involving customers in spreading the brand messages. The key is to increase the association of customers with the brand directly or indirectly. Last year, we witnessed Nike running social campaigns at the time of 2012 Olympics to boost their customer engagement and Cadbury’s social campaign on Facebook that increased the engagement by involving customers in generating content. Social media is great way to increase engagement (at least today) and we are already seeing new age companies (e.g., e-commerce, telecom) investing significantly in it. In coming year, we will also see traditional companies investing in creating more touch points to build engagement.
2. C2C, not B2C
Customer advocacy was never so potent and all brands are realizing it. Today, marketing is viewing every customer as a promoter also and hence, it becomes imperative for marketers to create channels to allow customers express themselves- from evaluation before purchase to after purchase.
Based on the McKinsey research, 2/3rd of the touch points during the evaluation phase involve customer driven marketing activities such as Internet reviews and word-of-mouth recommendation. Word-of-mouth have never been so powerful due to various mediums it can be expressed. Customers relate more to their peers than the marketer so we hope to see companies creating ecosystems to connect their customers. Even after the purchase of a product and service, customers not only build expectations for their next purchase but also influence a larger network based on their post purchase experiences. Number of active loyalists (who are not only loyal themselves, but also recommend) can be the most important metrics for the marketers very soon.
3. More Science, Less Art!
Measurability of marketing activities have been less objective. Recent Fournaise Marketing Group study found that 73% of CEOs don’t think that marketing drives demand and revenue. This is the time marketers need to be more precise and objective in their goals, which are more sales centric. Technology with data analytics plays an important role here. Think about the traditional campaigns, where promotional coupons from print advertisements can be used by customers to get discounts. You will only get to know the impact after a lag and even then, it would be difficult to determine effectiveness as you won’t know who really used it. Now, analytics allows these campaigns to have real time visibility and as precise as possible. Aim of marketing will be to attract most valuable customers rather than a population with unknown attributes- Not all customers are same, so you should be ready to spend more to acquire a more valuable customer. Even the metrics such as customer engagement are more measurable and marketers have to be very sure of the returns of their investments
These changes will be significant in the way traditional executives have approached marketing, and would require them to appreciate customer empowerment more than ever. I believe that big challenge is coming from new age marketers who have developed marketing skills with a different mindset.