When Naomi Klein released her anti-corporate manifesto No Logo in the first month of the 21st century, it heralded a new era in the tug of war between brands and consumers. No longer were the mad men of marketing who dominated the Eighties and Nineties in total command of the buying cycle. During the ensuing decade, the rapid advances in mass technology have hastened the swing of the pendulum from push to pull marketing.
This shift in the balance of shopping power from manufacturer to consumer is quickly becoming hackneyed, a common belief that handheld devices are putting control firmly into people’s palms. But no one has really come up with a cogent thesis setting out the cause and effect of this new paradigm, or the ideal outcome for marketers.
The question we should be asking ourselves is, while marketers and marketing observers alike recognise that this reality is becoming ever more concrete, how much do we really understand the abstract forces behind it, and what can brands do to regain – or at least retain – a measure of control?
Defining the gap in beliefs at both ends of the spectrum is the first challenge. Is the notion correct that consumers are so comfortable with their part in the personal media-driven research and sales process that they can switch off brands whenever they feel like it? Or is the reality that they still feel just as overwhelmed by all the marketing messages they have requested or seek out through multiple media channels?
If anything, people are even more keen these days to keep up with their peers’ brand knowledge, so will be connected through as many touchpoints as possible – potentially leaving them more confused.
The marketers who find a solution to this quandary will be those who recognise the need for deep, multidimensional insight into consumer behaviour. As we all know, there’s a welter of data available about channel preference and use, but co-ordinating all this information from across multiple media into one view is key to understanding the reasons for people’s decisions.
Once marketers have mined the gap between their own instincts and the truth behind the habits of consumers, they’ll be able to turn this knowledge to their advantage by working out the best way of staying connected with their audiences to maximise response and profit.
Ian McCawley is a marketing consultant at Acxiom UK & Europe