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.