Thursday, December 28, 2006

Consumer Empowerment Turns Your Message & Reputation Into the True Vehicle of Your Brand

A lot of the industry discussion around Engagement has been a reaction to consumer empowerment. Even the Advertising Research Foundation’s news release – first paragraph, mind you – announcing its working definition of engagement signaled to it:
As the advertising industry grapples with the profound changes in media, marketing and the emerging empowerment of consumers, the concept of engagement has emerged as 'more of a demand creation' paradigm than the 'reach or awareness focused' paradigm of the past twenty five years.
But in all the hype of consumer empowerment, I think it’s very important not to fall into the trap of “consumer control,” a false paradigm which marketers too often embrace when rationalizing this period of great change.

The truth is that consumers now have a voice, they have more choice and can hold marketers accountable as never before. Consumers can quickly organize, mobilize, reward and punish. Their gestures and votes are far more impacting. The ANA is right in suggesting that “truly interactive dialogue” is imperative, and those who don’t “abandon their historic ‘command and control’ model of brand building” will suffer.

So are consumers in control? No. They are more empowered, but there are two sides to this relationship. One side is the marketer and the other the consumer. It takes two to tango, and the balance of power is equalizing, to be sure. Contrary to hype and alarm, marketers have tremendous control over the variables and customer touch points that matter most. The result is that marketers must revisit the fundamentals.

The fundamentals – which you can control – include customer respect, your own innovation and product, your storefronts and your customer service among others. In a world increasingly driven by word of mouth–where reach, awareness trial and loyalty must be earned, not paid for–these factors become the building blocks of your message and your reputation. Your message and your reputation then become the true vehicle of your brand–much more so than any traditional notion of media.

And this is the core issue the ARF seems to be alluding to in its aforementioned statement that engagement is becoming 'more of a demand creation' paradigm than the 'reach or awareness focused' paradigm.

What do you think?

(These were key themes in my recent MediaPost op-ed here.)


Blogger John Cass said...

I think the customer is always in the driver's seat because they get to make the decision whether to buy or not.

Having said that if you engage your customers, that means they have to engage you. So it cuts both ways. If you build a good product and do all the right things, but also engage your audience, if you do find yourself in a tight spot, your customers might help you out with support.

7:21 PM  
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6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe that the consumers have as much control as believed. Producer have a responsibility to provide quality products to the consumer. That seems to be ignored more and more. There is a great article about production responsibility at:

8:43 AM  

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