A new year…a new epoch of marketing…

Looking back, there have been some pretty huge changes in the marketing landscape during 2011. Consumer connectivity has grown from strength to strength, social media has exploded and the power of the new consumer continues to rise.

So what does 2012 hold for us? Bob Garfield & Doug Levey published a really insightful article last week laying claim to the new ‘human element’ of marketing. I found their argument interesting, because a large part of it was focussed on advocacy and the importance of word of mouth. They talk about the ‘end of the consumer era’ and the idea that we’ve moved from marketing about products, to getting into the heads & hearts of consumers’, but now the focus must be on ‘trust’.

As cited in the article, Edelman’s Trust Barrometer has shown that the top response for identifying levels of ‘trust’ between a brand and a consumer have changed drastically. In 2006 trust was based on ‘quality products & services’, jump 5 years to the present and consumers believe trust is based on ‘transparent & honest practices’.

So how do we create trust in the 21st century? By creating advocacy through transparent & honest social media practices of course. If you ask me ‘trust’ is just another word for ‘advocacy’ – if people trust your brand they are more likely to support it and passionately spread the word as your ambassadors.

Interestingly, Garfield & Levy note research conducted by Imc2 to plot trust against market share for leading brands. Who were the big winners? Those brands who created a ‘sustainable relationship’ with their customers through social media.

Personally, I believe there has been a substantial transformation of the traditional purchase funnel, where advocacy now plays a key part in purchasing behaviour.

Here’s how I see the new purchase funnel working:

While traditional media is still key for generating awareness, advocacy and WoM now play a pivotal role at the consideration stage. This is where consumers are going online to read other consumers’ reviews as-well as asking friends and family for advice on which products to buy. In-fact according to a study last year a huge 87% of consumers will purchase products based purely on online reviews. The point is – if your brand doesn’t have a presence when it comes to online & offline WoM then you will lose out to your competitors who do. The exciting thing is that once you crack the advocacy nut, your most loyal fans will multiply, along with your bottom line ;)

David Rogers, executive director of Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership seems to agree with me:

“Awareness, opinion, consideration, preference and purchase” have been supplemented by “loyalty” and “advocacy…[the question is] how do you, as a marketer, get the subset of the loyal customer who doesn’t just buy your product again but … writes those positive reviews? They share your links and re-tweet you on Twitter and post a photo of themselves with your product on Facebook and “like’ you on Facebook and generate all these network conversations, which go back to the top of the funnel and influence other customers in your network at their own stage of awareness, consideration, preference or action.“

I couldn’t agree more with Rogers. We’ve moved away from the focus being purely about awareness – to an increasingly holistic approach that places more emphasis on the post-purchase phase and engaging your most loyal advocates to do your marketing for you.

Google’s Jim Lecinski is another advocate of this way of thinking. Lecinski published a fascinating paper last year ‘Zero moment of truth’ where he too recognised the importance of online consumer reviews & digital WoM when it comes to purchasing. Zmot found that the average consumer uses 5.3 pieces of information in order to make a purchase decision – and this was across multiple categories. Bret Hurt the CEO of BazaarVoice summed up the Zmot findings quite nicely:

“Word of Mouth online has got to become part of the central nervous system of every company”

Like it or not, there’s a new epoch of marketing upon us and it involves changing the way we view the purchase funnel, because consumers no longer buy products the way that they used to.  Could 2012 be the year that people power & consumer opinions take over? We’ll have to wait and see.

Zoe Boalch

About Zoe Boalch

Zoë Boalch is co-founder of Contagious Agency. Zoë likes: hot chili, yoga, learning new stuff, positive people, taking risks Zoë dislikes: naysayers, grumpy people, rather large egos
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