In the world of modern mass consumerism, who is king? Is it the hard-earned but critical customer, or the battle-hardened marketer who must simultaneously keep one beady eye on his audience and another on his competitors?
These times can be woefully confusing for even the boldest of brand-owners. The balance of power has been wrested from the corporate grip by consumers eager to join the ranks of citizen critics, whether to debunk marketing myths, save money or gain positive regard from their peers. It only takes one razor-sharp comment from a brand detractor to blow holes in an annual strategy, however good a product or campaign might appear to be when it leaves the design studio.
This struggle for control of the marketing agenda has created a Dr Dolittle-style ‘pushme-pullyou’ animal. Some brands are still thrust towards the unwitting consumer with devil-may-care bravado, while others only get their day in the sun when they’re handed five-star reviews by an appreciative online audience.
Despite the shift from passive to active consumerism, there’s much evidence to suggest some companies are carrying on spending regardless. A poll in the US found that 85 per cent of chief executives think they have a great relationship with their target market – but only 8 per cent of the consumers surveyed said they felt engaged by the same brand.
It’s a bad time to be aloof from the real needs of consumers. Millions of pounds could be wasted because businesses haven’t created a multichannel, cross-product customer view through their own customer information, or bothered to call on value-adding third-party data sources to create true multi-dimensional insight.
The trick for advertisers and their agencies, as they try to rein the beast back in, is using all of the cutting-edge services at their disposal, from data hygiene tools to top-level consultancy. In the blurry kingdom of marketing, brand owners need to keep their eyes on their data at all times; it could be the difference between making successful decisions and failing miserably.
Ian McCawley is marketing consultant at Acxiom UK & Europe