The paradigm shift: Why you better say good bye to the good old ONE WAY street!

I have started my career working inter alia on international marketing campaigns for TV and print. So I learned marketing the old way. I remember the good old times very well. Whenever there was something to communicate, e.g. a product launch, we hired a creative agency, briefed them and expected some creative (and most of the time expensive) ideas for commercials and print ads which in the best case would also be adaptable to other media – and I don`t necessarily mean digital!

Once we made up our mind and got the approval of our management we moved forward organizing the shootings at far away places we wanted to travel to, spending tons of dollars to produce the next award-winning campaign which would mean that yet another great party was waiting for us. Then we hired another agency to come up with a suitable media plan in which we spent even more money to get it out and penetrate the consumer`s mind. We never needed to ask him/her if he/she liked it. Actually, there was no way that people could tell us what they think. Maybe once in a while somebody did send a letter to our customer service team. So we had to apologize for not serving his/her taste and sometimes sent a little gift.

The more money we spent the more people we could interrupt. We didn`t ask for permission and we didn`t care. The only thing that mattered was to match the expectations of our management in terms of CPMs (cost per mille) and other fancy metrics. The more we spent the more eye balls would see our beautiful piece of advertising. Man, these were comfortable times. It was an easy equation: The more money was available for our campaigns the more people we could reach with it. A winning strategy the good old funnel! But then things all of sudden changed somehow… Marketing was no ONE WAY street anymore!

People started talking about us – ONLINE, REALTIME and 24/7. They had an opinion and told their friends about it. Some campaigns they shared and others they didn`t. WTF!? But we spend exactly the some amount of money on it – or even more?! Why didn`t they like it!? And why did they tell us that we should spend the money on customer service and product quality instead of producing expensive TV campaigns? I mean this was our job, right?! We were confused…

It took some time to understand that we actually were not in control of our brand and marketing anymore. Buying media is not enough. You have to earn media. People are media. The internet and social technologies like blogs, social networks, etc. gave them a voice and tools to shout out what they think. They have become the marketing directors and use the social web to spread the word (word- of-mouth) and spread the love – or to screw us sometimes!

Target groups became very well informed communities. Every brand and business is part of such communities. Customers, business partners, employees, competitors do talk about us. We need to join the conversation or at least listen as a first step. In the best case what they are saying is positive which means that they do the hard work for us. And by the way they say that people trust peer recommendations more than us – the marketers! And to be honest: It makes absolute sense. Isn`t it more credible when a customer says that our product is cool – then coming up with a smart headline for our print ad and billboard? They are the real deal and we`re not (all the time).

I think it`s clear what this story is all about. Marketing has changed. Communication has changed. Business has changed. Brands need to understand that they are part of communities and they better start listening to what these communities have to say. Marketing is not a ONE WAY street anymore, it`s a TWO WAY thing. A conversation we all better join sooner than later!


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