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Customers Don’t Want Ads, They Want A Conversation

Marketing is rapidly transforming into a dialogue between buyers and sellers or collaborative marketing. Crowdtap CEO Brandon Evans on the five trends driving the shift.

This story was published by Brandon Evans on Fast Company

It is becoming clear that the future of social marketing, and marketing in general, will be built around collaboration. Social technology has already evolved from a focus on consumer listening to broader social management platforms that help brands build and communicate with their consumers. Now, the stage is set for social tech to begin creating real value for companies through deep collaboration with consumers.

Collaborative marketing will mean that marketers truly shift from marketing “at” consumers to marketing “with” consumers. We have reached a tipping point where a penalty will be paid by those companies who simply view social as a mass communication channel for blasting out messages to a mass audience.

Today, the companies that win are closest to those who buy, use, and advocate for their products. Five trends demonstrating a shift to collaborative marketing will create the biggest changes and ultimately offer the most significant rewards for marketers:

1. Democratized product development

New models and technologies continue to make it easier and quicker for upstart companies to create and market products. Brands must keep pace with the speed and crowdsourced brainpower this technology enables, including:

Funding: Crowdsourced funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo make it easy for anyone with a good idea to raise millions to build a product with little risk.

Distribution:
Quirky democratizes invention to anyone with an idea, and Etsy provides a global marketplace for designers and artists to sell their goods.

Production: 3-D printers like Makerbot and Cubify look to revolutionize how prototypes and products are produced via their low-cost devices.

2. Close, continuous customer relationships

IBM’s Global CEO Study found that 88% of CEOs said “getting closer to customers” was the top priority for their business over the next five years. Brands that have a genuine, real-time dialogue with consumers will be well-positioned in a world of evolving and increasingly niche markets.

Krister Zackari, president of Gum and Candy at Mondelez International, has employed a strategy built around ongoing optimization for its Twist brand[/url] to ensure it offers teenagers exactly what they want from a snack brand. He states: “Because we’re working with teens on the strategy, we’re developing it as we go along. It means that we’ve had to change how we would normally go about planning the marketing for a brand. We don’t know what we’ll do next with Twist because we want to evolve naturally as a result of our work with teens.”

With this approach, it’s easy to see how Mondelez will keep pace with changing consumer tastes.

3. Open organizations

Businesses in the past succeeded with secrecy. Keeping technology, formulas, and processes under wraps often led to a competitive advantage. Today, competitive innovation stems from open information.

One recent example of a consumer crowdsourcing project is Coca Cola’s newly launched Facebook app that asks its 50 million fans to suggest ideas to make the world a happier place. The winning idea will be funded by Coca-Cola and launched in 2013.

4. Peer-powered media

Pushing out mass messages simply will not cut through the clutter in this age. One-third of all display ads that brands pay for are never shown, and 86% of people skip TV ads. Customers are simply too fragmented, too overstimulated and have too many distractions for these conventional marketing strategies to maintain their effectiveness.

Already, 80% of online content is consumer generated, and content will increasingly come from a customer’s peers. Today, friends are exposed to one another’s location, mood, music, likes, and more. Marketers need advocates talking about their products as people increasingly receive information about brands from their social connections.

5. Measurement of Influence not Impressions

Impressions provided a simple metric for a mass-marketed world. Success today, however, is not based solely on quantity; quality of the engagement with a message must be factored in as well. In order to measure the quality of any customer communication, Crowdtap developed the Brand Influence Metric, along with Joanna Seddon, the former CEO of Millward Brown Optimor.

Brand Influence looks at both quantity and quality of impressions. Marketers should look to implement a measurement system similar to the Brand Influence Formula in order to begin optimizing the quality of their communications in addition to reach and frequency.

What the future holds

Collaborative marketing will bring much greater change than enabling consumers to comment, like, or retweet posts. Collaborative marketing will mean that the current barriers between companies and their consumers will be removed. Successful brands will create and improve their products and messaging continually with their consumers. Likewise, consumers will influence and take co-ownership of their favorite brands.

The collaborative marketing future has arrived, and it’s going to be a fun ride.

Brandon Evans is the CEO and founder of Crowdtap, an Influencer Marketing platform that enables brands to identify, activate, and manage their influential consumers.

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