“The customer is always right.” You know that old chestnut. In order to stay successful, you need consumers to respect your brand. And how do you do that? You listen to them and tailor your services to fit their needs. Of course, as a perceptive business owner or marketer, you already know this. These days, however, it seems as though the consumers are not only always right, but they are also always…available. In the past, brands only had a handful of avenues that led to the consumer. Think about the popular TV show Mad Men, for instance. The biggies back then were print, radio, and eventually television and film. Focus groups certainly influenced marketers and business owners, but other than that, it was not easy to get immediate reports on how their campaigns were doing.
Now, potential customers are bombarded with media on all sides and in real time, giving brands more opportunities to reach them and grab their attention. Smartphone users are particularly accessible since they are constantly “plugged in.” Just as consumers are being reached by brands in real time, marketers now have the ability to get instantaneous feedback. Through channels like social media, marketers can watch consumer reaction and word-of-mouth advertisement as they happen. Not only do consumers dictate marketing strategies with their reactions, but they can also have a direct effect on advertisement. Smart, successful marketers are listening closely to these consumers and giving them what they want. Does this mean that the consumer now calls the shots when it comes to your marketing plan? Take a look at a few of these examples and decide for yourself.
Consumer as Advertiser
It has become common for brands to give their customers the marketing reins. More and more brands have done this by allowing consumers to design products or vote for their favorites. As most people know, the Super Bowl is a huge advertising opportunity for big brands. This year, Doritos put its customers at the marketing helm with their Crash the Super Bowl campaign. The brand invited consumers to come up with original, funny commercials, film them, and submit them for consideration as an official Doritos Super Bowl commercial. That sounds like a pretty bold step when you think about the fact that brands pay millions of dollars for this prime advertising spot. But Doritos knew what it was doing. Amateur filmmakers sent in their best work, and Doritos narrowed the group down to five finalists. Next, the public got to vote on the commercial they wanted to see aired during the Super Bowl. This is the ultimate in consumer-dictated marketing; they literally called all the shots. Some might have considered it a risky move, but Doritos got a lot of mileage out of the campaign.
Reaching Your Target Audience
Believe it or not, consumers have a say in what advertisements they see while perusing the Internet. Some brands have been using what is known as interest-based—or behavioral—advertising. Basically, the consumer’s online activities determine what ads they see. Many people have become aware of the fact that Google is very in tune with their interests. By tracking users’ browser activity, advertising companies make inferences about their interests and demographic. Marketers are able to establish a target audience easily based on that information. Facebook has given advertisers some great tools for strategic social media advertising. Advertisers can target prospects based on age, gender, location, relationship status, interests, and career type, just to name a few. By doing this, they are able to put their brands right in front of the prospects they want to target.
Engaging the Consumer
People do not want to be told about your product or service. Television watchers usually fast-forward through commercials or get up to do a chore or grab a snack during them. Most online video viewers will click on the “Skip Ad” option to get to their videos. These are disruptive and boring. Instead, marketers need to consider what an advertisement can do for or give to consumers. For instance, Starbucks is well-known for handing out little cards with codes for free phone apps, music, and books. You don’t have to hand out freebies to benefit the customer. Offer them something educational. After the last presidential election, Fidelity Investments asked in full-page newspaper advertisements: “How could the election results affect the markets?” The ad then encouraged readers to download analyses and insight from experts.
Today’s consumer holds the key position when it comes to marketing. Now that marketers have access to instantaneous feedback from consumers, they can analyze and cater to the needs of their targeted audiences much more easily. It has never been easier for brands to connect and engage with customers and collect valuable information. If you listen and look closely, customers will tell you exactly the type of content they want. Armed with this information, marketers can build entire advertising campaigns around the consumers’ demands not only for a product, but also for the avenues of marketing they want to see. After all, the customer is always right…right?