Marketing has irrevocably changed. It’s no longer just marketers shouting into the consumer void, customers are shouting back, often with hilarious memes and epic burns.
The line between brands and customers is blurring more and more as they reach out to brands across social media, create their own user-generated content, and hold brands accountable for their actions.
So what inspired this democratization of marketing and how far will it reach?
The grass roots of this democracy
The democratization of marketing was sparked by a variety of factors, from the growing ubiquity of technology and social media to the savviness of consumers and the simple fact that they were sick of brands saying one thing and doing another.
According to TechTarget, the five main sources of this surge of consumer power are:
- A dramatic increase in the amount of information (and variety of sources) that a customer can find out about a brand
- The level of competition among brands, and the fact that customers can access and compare a range of competing products with the click of a mouse
- Reviews, reviews, and reviews
- Online purchases and the ease of internet transactions now
- More control around what advertising reaches them through do-not-call lists, ad blockers, spam filters, and other methods
These factors allow consumers to be more discerning, forcing brands to distinguish themselves in new, innovative ways.
As such, the concept of brand, how it’s built, and what influences that image has completely changed.
It’s now a collective effort. Marketers disseminate brand communications across a dizzying array of channels and mediums, consumers react to these communications, consumers share their own stories, brands react to these stories, and so on.
It seems like an endless cycle, but is there a tipping point?
How far will the democratization of marketing go?
We asked two leading marketing experts for their thoughts on the democratization of marketing and where it’s headed next.
Lee Odden is an author, speaker, digital marketing strategist, and the co-founder and CEO of TopRank Marketing. He believes that it’s only a matter of time.
“Customers are increasingly empowered and I think the democratization of marketing is inevitable,” states Lee. “Brands are already co-creating content with customers, micro influencers, and communities. I think this trend as a form of customer-centric marketing will grow and that we’ll see a lot more customers participating in the creation of the very marketing that will be used to sell to them.”
Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot, Editor at chiefmartec, and Program Chair at the popular MarTech Conference series, says he’s already seeing its impact on the inner workings of organizations.
“I couldn’t agree more. It’s fascinating and it’s one of the things I’m looking a lot at is the democratization inside companies of tools and technologies that used to be controlled by IT and are now increasingly controlled by martech and operations.”
“I think moving forward more and more front-line marketers are going to have the power to tap these capabilities on demand. And why stop at the organizational boundary there? The passing of this stuff gives customers themselves more and more direct access to that. I couldn’t agree more, I think it’s going to be a very exciting dimension to this.”
Consumers today are playing an active role in the marketplace, and the marketing they are served. That’s only going to grow as more and more consumers view this as the new normal. The democratization of marketing is in full swing and it’s inevitable.
What does this mean for your marketing strategy?
For some marketers, this might be a terrifying scenario to comprehend.
Gone are the days when you just blasted an email into the void, you’re now battling and communicating with consumers on all fronts.
So what can today’s marketers do to make the most of this democratization and work with consumers, not against them?
First and foremost, you need an authentic brand story (and one where you walk the walk, not just talk the talk). Authenticity is one of the most valuable assets your brand can have, don’t forget that. A compelling brand story and voice resonates with consumers and helps you stand out from the pack.
Consumers want to understand how your company works, what it stands for, its goals, and how it views and treats customers.
As a marketer, you shape that by everything you do, not just your marketing initiatives and brand communications but the way your company communicates with customers at every stage of the customer journey.
It’s an ongoing conversation between how you want to market and position your brand and the way consumers view it.
Don’t opt out of that conversation just because it’s a trickier version of marketing, step up and take part. Encourage consumers to create user-generated content, choose your influencers or brand ambassadors wisely, and always keep tone of voice in mind (and a sense of humor).
To read our full interview with Lee Odden, check out our blog; Marketing Masters: How to Encourage Customer-Centric Marketing With Lee Odden.