The empowerment of consumers is changing how companies relate to customers. One of the key lessons from the Mobile Marketing Forum Singapore 2012 was the expanded role of the consumer. The Mobile Marketing Association has long been an advocate of consumer-centricity, i.e. the practice of considering the consumer first when it comes to creating marketing campaigns. But as the nature and extent of mobile marketing has changed over the last few years, so has the world’s media landscape, and to a large extent, the consumer has been the driving force for that change.
Today’s consumer is an active consumer of media, tech-savvy and digitally-aware. That consumer is more concerned with the content than with the container, and is more than able to reach out and subvert existing distribution and copy-protection technology in order to get the content that he or she wants. The consumer has no loyalty or preference for one media over the others, and has access to devices (smartphones and mobile tablets) that can take deliver the content of all the other media (radio, television, film, newspapers, books) onto a single screen.
This is a substantial change from the past. Historically, ours has always been a society of networks. Technologically, socially, geographically and economically, networks have always been at the heart of human development. We built networks to transport people and goods from place to place, to keep those far-away places connected, and (more recently) to transmit, store and exchange vast amounts of information.
The consumer-driven society we live in has evolved to use different kinds of networks, from hub and spoke systems with a central point of control, to decentralised control emanating from secondary points within the system. This liberalisation of control has reached a new point, where individuals exert substantial power, and even have the ability to use the network to broadcast their own thoughts and creations. User-generated content is a new and powerful force, responsible for films on YouTube, music on MySpace, and all the links and comments and content on Facebook and Twitter.
This is the work of the digitally-aware, tech-savvy consumer we described, who is building a new network based on the convergence of social networks, the internet and mobile technology. These new digital natives are driving the development of ever more sophisticated applications and technology, and demanding more and more bandwidth. They are also changing the customer experience, and altering marketing techniques.
Old methods and techniques may not work as well. Standard broadcast techniques have a scattershot approach – shoot out the material to as many people as possible, and hope that it sticks. A consumer-centric approach, one that uses the network but that prioritises the consumer, may be the solution.
For example, permission-based marketing offers consumers a chance to opt-in to marketing programmes, in return for advance notice of events, discounts, coupons and other special treatment. Perceptions shift, consumers see the value of the marketing material that they have requested, and of course each consumer is only sent what is relevant. Marketing becomes personal, and personalised.
This consumer-centric approach is a response to the rise of the personal mobile device, and the new wave of informed consumers. Brands that succeed will be those that listen to and engage with their audience, creating communities and spaces, and working with customers to create desirable products and services.
The author is Managing Director, MMA, Asia Pacific
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