Until recently, advertising has changed very little over the past hundred years. It’s been a simple model – engage temperamental creatives who drink too much to create clever advertisements, place the results in print and broadcast venues, and hope for the best. Success metrics have always been fuzzy, and 19th century store owner and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker’s quote has stood the test of time: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
For most of the history of advertising, the biggest problem has always been in determining what the customer actually wants to hear. For the most part, the solution rested in the instincts of the Mad Men’s booze-fueled late night sessions, along with a handful of anecdotal evidence from sales partners, and results from a few focus groups. Focus groups continue to be used today at agencies all along Madison Avenue, but the fallacy there is that by engaging a group of ten or twenty consumers, it is possible to determine what a much larger group wants. Today’s marketer must give all consumers a voice. Your focus group is the entire Internet.
“Marketing today has become a two-way conversation,” said Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com, a crowd-driven review platform. “When you put out a traditional ‘buy me’ advertisement, consumers are going to use social platforms and user-generated reviews to respond, and ask ‘why should I?’
It’s up to marketers today to transform traditional advertising into something where the consumer has a real voice.”
-Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com
Authors Raghav Narsalay, Jitendra Kavathekar, and David Light from Accenture wrote in Harvard Business Review that “open innovation” is critical to most business leaders’ plans in being responsive to the marketplace. The collaboration inherent in the open innovation model extends now to the crowd, allowing both smaller and larger businesses to gain valuable feedback and insight from an infinitely wide universe of potential partners and customers.
“Marketing innovation was always limited in the past, but today we can go beyond the limited collaboration options that companies used to rely on,” said Trika. “We can create a strategy of real-time, open-innovation marketing by making the entire universe of online customers and prospects our focus group, and using that feedback and direct engagement to drive higher levels of innovation and marketing success on a continuing basis.”
Your fans will market for you
Apple Computer’s “Shot with iPhone 6” ad campaign used hundreds of billboards that showed photographs taken by customers using their iPhones. The campaign, which began as a social media experiment and went on to receive top honors in the Outdoor Lions category at the Cannes Festival. This highly successful campaign was exciting not just because it showed fabulous photos taken on the iPhone – it was innovative because Apple took the bold step of relinquishing control to the crowd.
“The greatest innovation in marketing today is seen when marketers no longer try to control every aspect of the campaign,” said Trika. “In the ‘Shot with iPhone 6’ campaign, Apple left most of the marketing to the fan base. There will always be some negative comments when you go to the crowd, and Apple was no exception. But the results can be overwhelmingly positive, especially when you choose the right venues and engage directly with your audience.”
Truth in advertising: Who to believe
Consumers are no longer going to take you at your word when you say you’re the best, the cheapest, or the most beautiful. They’re not going to believe the beautiful young movie stars in your television advertisements. They’re going to ask their friends, and they’re going to do it online through social media, and by reading user-generated reviews. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising report notes that 83 percent of respondents across 58 countries rank “friends and family” recommendations as the most influential, and 66 percent of respondents said they trust consumer opinions that have been posted online.
When will consumers believe what you say? Today, the innovation in trust in advertising really lies in who is giving the message, and how they are delivering it. Specifically, the “who” isn’t going to be movie stars, and the “how” isn’t going to be through single-direction venues like television and print. The “who” is you, and the “how” is through bi-directional engagement on social and review sites. If consumers trust friends and family to give advice through those online venues, then the greatest innovation in marketing today is the ability to insert yourself in those social conversations in a very direct and meaningful way.
“The mistake marketers make in trying to tap into that personal conversation, though, is trying to insert a sales message without actually engaging in a real conversation.”
-Jeev Trika, CEO of CrowdReviews.com
Successful tactics rely on listening more than talking – and responding when somebody is talking about you. The two most important innovations in social engagement marketing are engaging in that meaningful conversation, and in taking part in the venues that promote that conversation. Today it is far more important for marketers to register on legitimate review sites frequented by consumers, and to encourage consumers to make those public comments. Legendary ad man David Ogilvy once said “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it,” and that’s even more true today, when what you say is no longer “I’m great, buy me.” Your message today is “I’m listening to you. Tell me what you need.”
image credit: tacticalmarketingsa.com
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Dan Blacharski is senior contributing analyst at Compass Intelligence, a market acceleration research and consulting firm; and the founder and senior PR counsel at Ugly Dog Media, a thought leadership, and public relations consultancy. Follow @Dan_Blacharski