New Media, New Imperatives

While the fundamental principles of marketing have not changed, the advent of digital marketing has brought about new challenges and opportunities for businesses. Here are some of the most important perspectives and imperatives that digital marketing has introduced:

“People Power”

Shift in Power from Corporate to Consumer: 
        Coca-Cola’s Facebook page was started by Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski, 
        two Coca-Cola enthusiasts.

Exhibit 19.2   Coca-Cola’s Facebook page, which was the second most popular page on Facebook, was started by Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski, two Coca-Cola enthusiasts, and not The Coca-Cola Company.

In cyberspace, people not only listen, they talk. As they converse with each other about their interests and about products, they play a role in the marketing of brands.

Take Take Coca-Cola, for instance. Some years back it was estimated that 80% of the brand’s communication on YouTube was user generated. The brand’s Facebook page (Exhibit 19.2), which was the second most popular page on Facebook, had close to 110 million followers in 2022. The Page was started by Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski, two Coca-Cola enthusiasts, and not The Coca-Cola Company.

Interestingly when the fan page base grew to over one million followers, Facebook had asked Coca Cola to take over the page, as, according to Facebook rules, it should be run by the company, not fans. Coca Cola instead assigned a team to support Dusty and Michael maintain the site, and the two creators started working for Coca Cola on a freelance basis.

Coca-Cola is one of many examples of how brands are benefiting from favourable content created by ordinary people who now have the means and the power to communicate with large audiences in social networks.

This shift in power from the corporate to the consumer has had a profound impact on the field of marketing, presenting a plethora of new opportunities and threats. There are now several new perspectives or priorities to consider, including social listening, social cloisters, misinformation, co-creation, crowdsourcing and permission marketing.

To harness the power of ordinary people, marketers need to listen and engage with these consumers, and collaborate with them in ways that channel their affinity for a brand towards creating brand value.

Engaging with Consumers in Cyberspace

In today’s rapidly changing market, it is essential to stay connected with consumers. Cyberspace has revolutionized the way consumers interact with brands, from how they seek information to how they buy products and how they advocate a brand. It has altered viewing preferences, transformed media experiences, and amplified voices. What people are watching, saying and doing in cyberspace is influencing their buying decisions.

The conventional marketing constructs such as the purchasing funnel and consumer decision journey no longer adequately capture the nature of these influences. The engagement is multi-faceted and non-linear, and the touchpoints have changed.

Marketers must adapt by embracing the new touchpoints and developing a strong online presence that provides useful information to attract and retain consumers. They should invest in fostering word-of-mouth to increase brand awareness and loyalty.

Word-of-Mouth and Brand Meaning Management

Consumers’ perception of the brand, its image, is not only shaped by its management team but also by consumers, popular culture, the media, opinion leaders, and a broad base of other influencers.

With the onset of social media, the influence of consumers in shaping a brand’s image has grown immensely. The persuasive power of their word-of-mouth outweighs that of advertising, and the new media greatly amplifies it. User-generated content, whether in the form of reviews, opinions, advice, rants or complaints, garners greater credibility than the messages advertised by marketers.

Since the brand’s image or meaning is authored by vast array of players, brand managers need to positively influence these authors to deliver desired brand messages. They need to devote considerable resources to influencing analysts, bloggers and other influential consumers. Indeed, many companies, and especially those with greater exposure to the new media, are now spending more on advocacy than on conventional media.

Heightened Accountability

The shift in power from the corporate to the consumer intensified the accountability for the health and security of brands.

As mentioned earlier, brand messages can become contagious and spread like a viruses — possibly yielding extraordinary gains or possibly causing irreparable damage. The need for marketers to promptly respond to their consumers has heightened, and many of them have committed resources and set-up processes to do so within hours. P&G for instance, uses an automated social listening platform called “consumer pulse” to scan comments on the internet, categorize them by brand, and direct them to the relevant team member.

Furthermore, in a global context, consumers transcend time zones, which means that online customer engagement and service must remain active 24/7. The Dove bottle advertisement case example which follows, illustrates the herd mentality on social media and the need for brand management teams to swiftly respond to protect the health of their brands.

Dove Bottle Advertisement

Exhibit 19.3   Dove bottle ad celebrates the many shapes and sizes of beauty.

In 2017, we witnessed a chorus of online voices denouncing the Dove bottle advertisement shown in Exhibit 19.3. The ad which celebrated the diversity of beauty in all shapes and forms, was misinterpreted by those who thought Dove was mocking women, and their comments on social media created a wave of negative publicity.

But was it really a slip-up as the voices claimed it to be? Had “Dove run out of ideas?” Did others feel the same way?

With a view to understanding Dove’s intent, let’s reflect on the legacy of Dove advertising.

The brand is considered the originator of femvertising — the practice of harnessing feminism in advertising. Starting in 2003, Dove’s advertising emphasis shifted towards depicting beauty without artifice, or “real beauty”. What followed were a series of campaigns such as Evolution (2006), Onslaught (2007), Pro-age (2007), Girls under Pressure (2008) and Self Esteem (2011, 2017, 2020).

At a time when market research indicated that only 4% of women thought of themselves as beautiful, Dove rejected the narrow depiction of beauty portrayed in the media. By challenging society’s deeply ingrained obsession with appearance, Dove became an advocate for women to appreciate themselves and recognize beauty in all shapes and forms.

In this context, the Dove bottle advertisement did not belittle or shame women. On the contrary, it celebrated the diverse shapes and sizes of the female body, showcasing the curves and lines of beauty. The advertisement’s creativity lies in the symbolism of the elegant Dove bottles as a representation of the feminine form.

According to the brand’s team: “Just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes.”

It is worth noting that such online dialogue, which stimulates debate and discussion and presents opposing views, can actually benefit the brand. By drawing attention to social values and deep-rooted concerns about beauty, the ad imbues Dove with a similar sense of purpose, increasing consumers’ interest and involvement with the brand.

Market Globalization

The digital age has redefined globalization in the marketplace. By providing easy access to information and by enabling e-commerce, the internet has effectively perforated geographical market boundaries. More than ever before, marketers are competing in a global setting. It is easier to communicate to a global audience and sell to distant markets, and it is increasingly difficult to rigidly localize the marketing mix.

For an example on reaching a global audience across distant markets, consider this book The Marketing Analytics Practitioner’s Guide. Whereas it’s physical distribution is limited by several physical constraints, the online platform, MarketingMind, which features content from MAPG, is accessible anytime, anywhere, and attracts users from about 240 countries, on average per week.

Marketing to Individuals

On the internet, marketers can personalize and tailor advertising and other messages to target specific individuals. By utilizing the vast amount of information available on ordinary people, marketers can finely tune their messages to increase the effectiveness of their communication. For more information on this topic, please refer to the Personalization section.

Media Convergence

Media convergence has changed the way marketers communicate with their audiences. In the past, brand communication was limited to traditional media silos such as TV, print, radio, and out-of-home advertising. With the convergence of media, marketers must adapt their strategies to ensure their message is synchronized across multiple channels. Moreover, considering that much of their online media is owned, marketers are now producing content at a faster pace than ever before.

“Data Power” (Metrics and Analytics)

SEO - Use of analytics to optimize website for search engines

Exhibit 19.4   Through Search Engine Optimization, Knight Frank achieves tremendous growth in traffic (clicks) to its KFMAP site.

The internet adds a rich new stream of data that reveals extensive information about consumers and their behaviours, and marketers can leverage this information to tailor their marketing initiatives and measure their success using web analytics. This capability enables them to fine-tune their efforts and improve their returns on marketing investments.

Web analytics also allows marketers to track a consumer’s progress through the prospecting funnel, from a lead to an enquiry, enquiry to prospect, and prospect to customer, yielding a wealth of information that reveals the impact of their marketing mix and assesses the health of their online properties. For example, Knight Frank’s KFMAP website experienced a surge in impressions and growth in site traffic through search engine optimization (SEO). Relying on data from platforms like Google Search Console (refer to Exhibit 19.4) and Google Analytics, the author could track the impact of initiatives and optimize the site for search engines.

Practitioners also use analytics systems like Google Ads to track and optimize search advertising and analyse their digital marketing efforts on major social networks. These analytics systems are free and accessible through user-friendly platforms.

For sectors such as financial services, analytic techniques are being used to quantify risks, enabling businesses to weed out risky transactions.

Furthermore, data-empowered and technologically-enabled systems and processes are yielding gains in productivity, leading to significant cost reductions.

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