‘Beyond advertising’: How companies can build better customer relationships
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
How many times do you block advertising in an app or online? Yet, many companies persist in this marketing technique.
In a new book, Wharton marketing professor Yoram (Jerry) Wind and The Wharton Future of Advertising Program executive director Catharine Findiesen Hays argue that consumers are in control and want to interact with companies in new ways. Their book, “Beyond Advertising: Creating Value Through All Customer Touchpoints,” addresses ways companies can develop a more integrated relationship with those they serve.
In an interview on Wharton Business Radio, Mr. Wind noted that consumers can get information on any brand they want to buy — the features, recommendations, pricing — at any moment on their mobile device. While traditionally at the “mercy” of marketers in knowing all the details, consumers now have more information than the marketer, are skeptical and don’t trust advertising.
“Consumers are sending a very clear message to advertisers: ‘We hate your advertising. We want to block it,'” said Prof. Wind.
At the same time, “Beyond advertising” means that, beyond traditional media, brands have to reach consumers through package, product and store design as well as call center interactions — any point of interaction a consumer has with the brand.
Finally, targeting needs to shift from “How much of my product does somebody consume?” to other parts of consumers’ lives such as “their communities, their aspirations, where they’re going,” according to Ms. Hays. Marketers must align the brand objective with consumers and society.
The authors state that silos between marketing and other departments make an integrated approach to branding and consumer outreach more difficult to acheive.
But Ms. Hays said that some forward-thinking marketers are welcoming the change. She said, “It’s a shift from feeling like they’re totally in control of what the conversation is around their brand to actually being part of a conversation — bringing consumers in, bringing people in — so that they are part of a cultural zeitgeist, in fact, and part of people’s lives.”
Do you see “in control” consumers driving radical or subtle changes in advertising and other communication approaches for brands? How should marketers change their thinking about customer relationships?
Join the Discussion!
17 Comments on "‘Beyond advertising’: How companies can build better customer relationships"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Ads have become so intrusive — now with video and sound that launch when you open a page — that consumers almost have no choice but to install ad blockers. At the same time, they’ll happily engage on social media platforms. Companies need to learn how to talk WITH consumers, not AT them.
This topic is not new, nor are the ideas posed by the Wharton paper. The old model of push advertising has been waning for years and has been replaced by an interactive conversation. Marketers should provide consumers with the information they want to make informed decisions. They need to show how their products can make consumers’ lives better. And they need to try to establish an emotional bond with consumers. Anything less is a recipe for failure.
It could be about controlling turf that keeps marketers from an integrated strategy. Indeed, consumers are in control. But many marketers prefer to believe their ideas, strategies and tactics will move customers. And they’d rather move forward with their beliefs than observe, research and analyze what is really going on.
Professor Wind and Ms. Hays describe the situation perfectly. They mention “points of interaction.” It’s challenging to consider each point of interaction independently and then try to integrate a strategy around them. Whether there is a plan in place to adapt to “in-control” consumers or not, consumers are seeing brands within a continuum of their own pattern of exposure to media and shopping behavior. So it makes sense to capitalize on those points of interaction. But it may take stepping out of your own sphere of influence to work within a larger corporate and marketing framework.
Shopper reviews, social networks and social listening, one-way to 360-communications, real-time personalized offers, the experiential economy — all these and more are rooted in consumers’ power and are transforming branding and communications radically. It’ll never be the same again.
Those longing for the good old days will have to binge watch “Mad Men” on Netflix — the irony of it all.
Fundamentally, brands must reach consumers through advertising to build awareness and generate demand. Even “new generation” brands like Dollar Shave Club and Airbnb are using TV advertising to create awareness and position themselves in consumers’ minds.
The changes in advertising will be more subtle as opposed to radical because of these fundamental realities. Once a brand is established, it can broaden its marketing approach to include community-building and aspirational messages. However, traditional advertising techniques will still play a major role in creating the identity for a brand.
The ultimate consumer touchpoint is their touchscreen. Nothing puts the consumer in control more than their phone. They’re using it interact with the people they care about and they’ll use it to interact with the brands they care about too — but space is limited. Their phone is the new most valuable real estate and competition for that spot on the home screen isn’t just with other retailers, but everything else in their lives. Merchants need to develop strong mobile strategies now before they get shut out of digital and pushed out of business.
Consumer habits are formed by changes in the economy, society, technology and other factors. How consumers adapt to these changes correlates with how they interact with brands.
Forward-thinking brands are already anticipating how to guide the consumer and their brand interactions. Look at Amazon, Tesla, Burberry and Donna Karan and you will see them going direct to the consumer.
Consumers are not trying to control, they are trying to adapt. Brand interactions that make this adaption easy, enjoyable and rewarding are key.
Marketers need to capture as many sources of data as they can, both internal and external, to paint a clearer picture of their target audience and build demand and true loyalty. These sources include social (both internal, like call center, customer reviews, etc. and external social channels), local news and local events that affect shopper lifestyle needs and even the local weather. You need to be able to see how all of these forces interact with each other and when that becomes available, you get far deeper insights and are able to improve demand forecasting dramatically. This is the way some innovative retailers are changing their marketing strategies and developing stronger, more personal shopper relationships.
Real simple: take control of your promo. No Wharton-level thinking is needed to say, take control. What does this mean? If a shopper opts out of a select retailers’ ads then never drop them an email and never be a pop-up on their browser. Earn the respect of the shopper. They make one purchase, then send a CEO-level note and thank them, then disappear. If they want you they will come back.
Real simple. Run your network and do not let ad services do the promo for you.
This is happening especially in particular segments where crowdsourcing and engaging in dialogue with peer-consumers and with companies can benefit the individual — say, with health and health care, food, clothing, personal care and beauty, and consumer tech.
Get used to it! Consumers can, at the touch, tap or swipe on a screen can delete not only your ads, but your relationship. It’s simple. Get permission to engage with the consumer and then provide them value through the engagement.
With modern technology, consumers can block and shape communications from brands. Marketers need to think about compelling content and activities that consumers would want to receive or interact. Force feeding messages through massive media buys is seeing diminishing returns, while small programs with attractive content and interesting interactions offer better results.
Of course consumers are driving with their control. No longer can companies just put out a message and be the sole owner of brand image. Consumers can block, ignore, respond to, or change any message the company sends. Smart companies will keep tabs on what consumers are saying and doing to create an interactive dialogue.