First, let me say that I don’t like the TV show Mad Men. But I’m almost old enough to remember when a handful of white, male ad agency executives in New York controlled nearly everything the public saw and heard in the media. They showed my parents glamorous images, and told themwhat the product was and how it was going to help them- and theyresponded by buying exactly what the ad agencies (and their celebrity pitch men and women) were selling.
That was then. Now, anyone foolish enough to try the same approach would fail miserably. There are three key reasons for that. To start with, consumers have choices that our parents never dreamed could exist. Back then, the only choice was to get up and leave the room when an annoying commercial came on. Now, thanks to DVR’s, pop-up blockers, and spam filters, no one has to see a marketing message that they don’t want to see.
Second, the number of communications channels available to connect companies and consumers has never been greater. TV’s Mad Men never dreamed of the immediate, personalized messages possible through the Web, social media, email, and mobile devices. They’d have killed for the kind of personalized, on-demand delivery of video and print messages that we take for granted.
Third, and most importantly, today’s consumers are anything but passive recipients of corporate marketing messages. We’re active participants in the marketplace – posting reviews on websites like Yelp, Tweeting our friends to ask for recommendations on car insurance, and posting the results of tech support calls on Facebook as they happen.
In fact, today’s interactive world is the exact opposite of the one-way communiation channel where the Mad Men thrived. Technology has given consumers a voice at the same time that the economic meltdown left them feeling betrayed by many of the businesses and industries they once trusted. According to the annual “Trust Barometer” study just released by the giant PR firm Edelman, only about a quarter of Americans trust banks (25%), insurance companies (26%), and financial services companies (25%) to “do what is right”.
The news media fares even worse with just 22% of Americans ranking them as trustworthy. So who do consumers trust? People they know, especially those who live nearby. Younger buyers crowdsource everything from recommendations for a doctor to a million-dollar corporate software purchase.
Customers are the ones with the power – and they aren’t going to give it back. I wrote a white paper at work recently, where I suggested some of the ways that marketing professionals can use technology to deal with all the changes that we’re facing as professional marketers — and as consumers. If you’d like a copy, it’s available free on my work website by clicking here.