Who Controls Brands Now? The Rise of 360° Marketing

At the most recent meeting of the American Marketing Association, Ad Age reports, “The speakers at the podium kept changing, but their words remained the same. One after the other, the marketing world leaders took to the stage and declared that it’s time to give up control and accept that consumers now control their brands.”
Of course, in some ways, they always have. A brand has always only been as good as a consumers’ experience of it. The difference today is that consumers have lots of ways of communicating those experiences and trust each other’s views instead of marketers’ overt sales pitches. A more interactive environment gave them the tools to be better informed and less susceptible to the traditional one-way communication model. Consequently, they are influencing marketing strategies as never before.
Consumer impact is critical
Consumers don’t have profit and loss accountability for a brand. But their input at every touch point along the value chain can has a huge impact. The real question for 2007 is whether marketers can harness consumer creativity and deploy it in service of their brands. After all, innovation is not what a product or service offers, it’s what consumers adopt.
Consumer input can optimize activities at the beginning of the value chain, starting with product development, all the way to the end at distribution and customer service touch points. The challenge of 360° marketing is establishing a meaningful two-way dialogue with consumers and having the corporate vision and support to leverage their input across function areas.
Embracing change and consumer engagement
The impact of corporations giving up brand control and engaging with consumers according to a new set of rules is not yet fully understood. But history warns us when value chains are re-configured, there is a widening gap between well-positioned firms, who embrace change, and those for which disruption means dislocation. Whatever a company’s tolerance for change may be, building and maintaining a strong brand requires marketers to develop new skills and obtain help from other departments.
New rules are emerging, but certain requirements never change: meeting and exceeding customer expectations. The new ante? A brand is now required to integrate all its activities into a cohesive customer experience. Since every experience drives brand perception and loyalty, marketers must ask themselves, “Is this how I want to be treated if I am the customer?”
Customer satisfaction 24/7
A case in point is the power of a brand in the new purchasing scenarios. The proliferation of distribution channels have made process benefits a more important part of the purchase decision equation. Transactions must be easier, quicker, cheaper, more informative or more pleasant. Given the availability of information on the Internet, consumers can instantly identify the lowest cost provider. Obviously, price is not the only purchase decision determinate. Consumers may be willing to pay a premium when other needs, such as service, are met. Answering the phone on the second ring, quick access to a problem-solving human, or being able to return goods very quickly without question or difficulty, are foundational elements of good service.
360° marketing is simply a brand fulfilling a consumers’ need to feel valued and heard through responsive interchange at every product touch point. This includes touch points outside the brand’s control, such as blogs. Migrating from the traditional one-way communication model to a two-way model gives brands powerful new tools to engage consumers’ hearts and minds. And we all know what loyalty means to the bottom line.

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