The right-wing is growing in popularity in the United States, Ben Ali is finally kicked out of Tunisia. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Iceland are leaning toward bankruptcy, Fidel Castro will die soon, Duvalier is back in Haiti, and India and China are continuing to embrace capitalism. It smells change! It smells revolution! But what about business and more precisely marketing? What does it smell? I would say it smells the roast of a revolution too! But what kind of revolution? I would say three types of interconnected marketing revolutions: (1) the retailing experience revolution, (2) the automated personalization revolution and (3) the social media revolution.
Revolution #1 –The Retailing Experience Revolution
Let’s first start with the retailing experience revolution, since it’s the oldest and the more marketing-related revolution. In the 90’s, companies started to become aware of the importance of store design and atmospherics and how it could enhance a consumer’s experience and thereafter leverage sales. Companies started to become aware of the power of (1) music style, (2) music tempo, (3) decors, (4) store colors arrangement and more importantly, (5) the power of building the right brand-related ambiance. All these techniques have culminated with the bestselling book “Why We Buy? – The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill that brought “ambiance research” to another level. An interesting update and complement published in 2010, is “Buy-ology” by the danish author Martin Lindstrom with a foreword by Paco Underhill.
Thus, running into a mall is no longer a boring utilitarian task for many of us (but it is still for some guys!), it’s more than ever an “Experience” (with a capital “E”), and the cheapest experience you can buy, the only thing it costs is gas or any transportation fees, and that … until you buy. Some companies have even brought the experience one step further, simply taking a look at the Charmin’ restrooms in New York City and the Apple Genius Bar will make you understand that it’s all about “Experience”.
Pushing the peanut one step further, the importance of a fit between a website design and its associated brand is another example of this retailing experience revolution. Thus, the creative part of ergonomics is totally inlaid in this revolution.
Revolution #2 – The Automated Personalization Revolution
If petroleum was the “Black Gold”, the water the “Blue Gold”, then the web can be defined as a golden mine of information. But it is more and more a golden mine of information for companies to find you and then target you. More and more companies know who you are, where you are, and what you want? It looks more and more like a “Big Brother” issue, to quote one of my favorite authors George Orwell. In web terminology, it could be referred to as Web 3.0 – the information finds you and meets your needs before you find it.
From Online to Offline to On-line
The beginning of this revolution started with Amazon in 1994, the objective was to target the consumer/user based on collaborative filtering. Most importantly, the automated personalization is a real-time updating (on-line) process that collects information about you and adapts its offering as you evolve in the society always relying on people similar to you. Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, is a graduate in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Princeton. Since then, tons of computer scientists and statisticians with expertise in computer programming and data mining/statistical learning emerged in start-ups or changed the business culture of already existing companies.
More and more, this personalization revolution will appear offline. With the advent of location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla, this is simply the icing on the cake. Companies can now bring your offline information online and then target you. This is marvelous for the consumer but in the long-run it would be even more interesting for the company. Offline examples include the possibility to learn about consumers using intelligent in-store displays (see my post entitled “The In-Store Displays are Watching You” on the topic), then merging the retailing experience revolution with the automated personalization revolution.
Revolution #3 – The Social Media Revolution
Let’s first put something clear. As in the ancient time, people are still communicating, they are simply communicating using different platforms. In this way, there was social life before social media, as there was statistics and KPIs before web analytics, as there was information available before the Internet. Traditional way to communicate to others should always be taken in consideration by any company and ad agency. However, what should also be taken in consideration is that what is said on the web, stays on the web. In the 1950’s at Tupperware parties, people could say what they want, and what was said, could be forgotten the other day or burned in the fireplace, but now it stays and sticks on the web as an unwanted Facebook picture. Thus, the traditional ways of communication stay, but the media changes and the information is carved in stone. Here are my top 9 changes related to social media (feel free to suggest me some others):
1. People are less patient than before, they want it right now;
2. People are more connected, but they know less about their connections than before;
3. People communicate more with strangers online, but less with strangers offline;
4. People trust less traditional advertising than before and more their weak ties than their strong ties;
5. People have less privacy than before;
6. People who have nothing important to say are gaining supporters compared to experts;
7. People are spending less time on television and more time on the Internet;
8. The information is spreading faster;
9. The information is more tractable.
But why is social media a marketing or more globally a business revolution? Since the information is easily tractable on the web, what is most useful from a business perspective is the possibility to broadly answer the 5W’s for almost any brand:
1. Who is writing about your brand?
2. What is written about your brand?
3. Where are consumers writing about your brand?
4. When are consumers writing about your brand?
5. Why are consumers writing about your brand?
Nowadays, using social media monitoring platforms like Radian6, Sysomos, Lithium (Scout Labs), etc… to answer these 5 questions is more and more common for firms or agencies. Consulting agencies using their own powerful solutions such as Nexalogy have also emerged in the business world. More and more, the social media revolution is tending toward the automated personalization revolution.
The power to the morons? – From Plato to Ashton Kutcher
In the 4th century BC, Plato dreamed about what he referred to as “The State”, where experts could lead and share their decisions. If Plato would be alive today, he would certainly kill himself. Social media platforms sure give more power, the problem is that sometimes, it reinforces power to people that sometimes simply have nothing intelligent to say. Following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter may be funny, but most of what he is saying is useless. However, he is certainly one of the most influential individual on Twitter. Overall, there is surely more information exchanged than before on the social media platforms, but there is also extremely high number of “babbles”. Getting rid of “babbles” is one of the main challenges of any social media monitoring platform.
In conclusion, whatever is the revolution that is affecting your job the most, what is most important to keep in mind is that there was life before these revolutions. What you’ve learned in your “Introductory” marketing courses 10 years ago is not good for trash, it is still relevant, but it simply needs to be updated, to be integrated with concepts related to these revolutions. However, what mainly differs from political revolutions is that we can’t escape from these revolutions, we are all voluntarily or involuntarily part of these revolution. Any other ideas of revolutions? Want to play Risk© against me and start you own revolution?
Enjoy these revolutions you little “Che”,
If you like this post, be sure to subscribe to Jean-Francois Belisle RSS feed!