Friday, June 5, 2009

Changing Consumers, Changing Advertising

Consumers Have Changed, So Should Advertisers

Are you still broadcasting your ads to the "haystack" and praying that the "needle" saw your ad? Advertising has always been like sending a message to a haystack and hoping there were enough "needles" in the haystack (i.e. target customers) who would see the ad, recall it, and then go make purchases. That used to work, but these days the needles are getting harder to find, they tend to block out all advertising, and they have built up new expectations and irreversible habits. These expectations and habits have a dramatic impact on how they receive, react to, and act upon advertising.

Consumers Seek Trusted Sources for Information

When modern consumers go online to look for information, there's sometimes too much information and it is hard to tell what's official or even true.

Savvy consumers look for clues from others. The information that they rely on tends to be from peers, or at least others like them (i.e. total strangers who wrote reviews on an item they are considering buying), instead of the information in ads put out by advertisers. They trust claims made in ads less and less. They trust the reviews, comments, and recommendations from other users more and more.

Consumers Prefer Collaboration Over Isolation

Finally, today's consumers expect to get help from friends or others like them. They will ask which restaurant, digital camera, or even wedding dress their friends recommend and why. They will look for clues about what other users find useful. Usually if readers are engaged and vocal in their commenting, others get a sense of the quality and value of the post. This way, they have immediate feedback on whether they need to even spend any time reading the post.

Consumers also expect to share information. Their friends know them best and they also know what they are looking for or are in the market for. Consumers will share items and recommendations with friends because they know their friend will appreciate help and insights and they expect the same in return. And this is real advice from real people, not an ad from someone trying to sell you something.

My Take

My take is focused on two points that Dr. Fou makes regarding consumer trust and collaboration. Please see the entire article to read his recommendations.

The tools available for getting and sharing information are always changing. Yet people are still people - they always have and always will find a way to get the most value and to do business with the most trustworthy business.

Consumers and businesses who stay current with new tools will enjoy a marginal advantage. However, for business owners, social media is no substitute for quality. In fact just the opposite is true - through social media poor quality will be exposed and broadcast.

Paying attention to new media is important - but providing great service is paramount. It is the best advertising.
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