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?