Consumer control: A nasty four-letter word

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“Consumer control” is a four-letter word to marketers.

It is a code word for ceding brand authority to the masses.  And, spending brand equity needlessly.  The reality is the consumers are in control.  Consumers expect to control their music, personalizing their playlist to their mood and moment on their iPhone.  They have instant access to their friends on Twitter.  They use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bazaarvoice, TripAdvisor, Polyvore, Pinterest, Listia, and Blippy to project their own personal brand.  Afterall, what is a Facebook page if not an expression of my brand to my friends—what I like, music I listen to, the way I look.

Consumers are asserting control over one of their most important assets their data.  Over 70% of consumers indicate that they will participate in an online Do Not Track list if made available.  More than 90% of consumers resent advertisers that track them on line.  Recent European Union restrictions prohibit capturing of online consumer data without an explicit immediate benefit to the consumer and consumers can universally opt-in.  Out go cookies!!!

What is a marketer to do?  Think about consumer engagement models built on consumer empowerment.  That means building relationships with consumers in which you equip them with clear channels for communicating their needs and moods.  Spending time extrapolating behavior and using fancy statistical algorithms to predict the obvious may not be the most efficient way.  Engaging consumers who expect control with programs that allow consumers to express in their own voice who they are and what they need uniquely position the marketer in the era of consumer control.

The new era of ‘targeting’ is about personalization.  What is true personalization?  Personalization involves two parties:  a marketer and a consumer.  Personalization can only occur if both parties are actively involved in a match of expectations and rewards.  Guessing how your consumer wishes to personalize is merely targeting—a technique in today’s era of consumer control is destined for failure.  So, what does it mean to say that personalization requires both parties to be actively involved?  In order for you as a marketer to deliver rewards (whether products, services, or promotions) that match expectations you have to understand the consumer.  The best way to truly personalize is to know your customer.  Despite all the talk about 360° views of the customer, these views are essentially one sided portraits deduced from a set of fragmented data sets.  Wouldn’t it be better to just ask?

Its like the great cartoon that says “if you talked to people the way advertisers talk to people, you would punch them in the face”.

What if we got better about asking consumers to tell us?  It sure is a good way to acknowledge that they are in control.

About Eric

Eric Hillerbrand is CEO of Talk3. He is a visionary thought leader in Web 3.0 technology and future marketing technologies. Eric has been at the forefront of consumer-centric marketing strategies, leveraging emerging marketing technologies to achieve the promise of one-to-one marketing, and building marketing programs that engage today's social, mobile consumer. He has been a founder of several marketing technology companies, advised several startups, early stage companies and Fortune 500 companies in making the most of these technology shifts. His focus has been semantic technologies, complex and emergent systems, and building personalization products for consumers.
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