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Reclaiming the Battlefield of Consumer Influence

September 20, 2012 • Emerging Ideas, Global Business, INNOVATION, Marketing & Consumers, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT

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By Paul F. Nunes and Joshua B. Bellin

Companies are increasingly finding their marketing messages contradicted – or worse, turned against them – by a new set of “advisers.” These online channels, including TripAdvisor, Amazon.com and many more, operate beyond marketers’ control and have great reach and significant power to influence consumer opinion. Can this territory be regained? Yes, but only if marketing leaders learn to understand the battlefield of influence. They can then draw from a set of four tactical responses to ensure that their key messages remain accessible, relevant and influential.

 

In the last ten years, many marketing organizations became aware that their customers had “escaped.” They had fled the controlled sales channels of the pre-Internet age when stores were solid and physical distances mattered. Instead they were acting in unpredictable ways, turning to components of multiple channels before buying (or turning elsewhere).1

Today the problem has just gotten bigger. Customers are not just exploiting alternative sales channels to inform themselves about products and company reputations before making a purchase. They’re also turning to a wide variety of online sources for advice, in domains where traditional marketing messages often have very little influence or impact.

The challenge for companies is to identify and embrace the methods, both old and new, that are most compelling to their customers, while responding effectively to competitors that are trying to do the same.
Influence has long been on the minds of marketers – from television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves’s formulation of the unique selling proposition to Robert Cialdini’s “Psychology of Persuasion” in the 1980s and 1990s. But the advent of new technologies has made the problem all the more pressing, ushering in an entire cottage industry evangelizing different opinions on effective internet and social media marketing techniques. The challenge for companies is to identify and embrace the methods, both old and new, that are most compelling to their customers, while responding effectively to competitors that are trying to do the same. This challenge is the hallmark of today’s new battlefield of customer influence, and it has left some companies seriously wounded.



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