Consumer 2.0 – how the internet changed everything

Some of the fresh-faced marketing grads reading this will be too young to recall the biggest shift in consumer behaviour for generations.

It happened right under our noses, and if like me, you’re long enough in the tooth to remember a time before smartphones and super-fast broadband, you lived right through it.

Back then, people didn’t all carry powerful supercomputers around in their pockets. When you needed to buy something, you’d ask a salesperson for advice. And the role of CMO was limited to brand building, advertising and market research.

Today, all that is changing.

The modern consumer carries an internet connected device with her wherever she goes. She no longer depends on TV ads, billboards or forecourt salesmen for advice on the best products or services. In fact, she generally prefers to research things herself online.

Data from Gartner shows that the typical B2B buyer is 57% of the way to making a purchase decision before they even approach a vendor.

A similar story is playing out in the B2C space. Social media and online reviews sites like Trustpilot make it quick and easy to discover what other people are saying about the consumer goods on their radar.

The upshot is that marketers must now look to engage customers earlier, during the research phase of the buyer journey. But if CMOs are to do this efficiently, their roles must expand. Companies must act fast to modernise their marketing departments to meet the demands of better connected, better-educated consumers.

A roadmap to engaging the modern consumer

To engage a target audience effectively in today’s business landscape, you need to reach consumers early through mediums they know and trust.

Earned media is the perfect tool for the job. At a time when people are increasingly tuning out paid and owned media channels, trust in the British press is soaring.

Ad blocker penetration has shot up 20% since 2016, to 615 million users worldwide. Meanwhile, Edelmen’s Trust Barometer shows there has been a huge increase in trust in traditional media over the same period. Brits now trust the mainstream press more than social media, businesses, the government – and even NGOs like charities.

We’re already seeing this reality being reflected in marketing budgets. Roughly half of B2B marketers saw their budgets increase last year, at a time when paid and earned budgets are being squeezed. Yet, many communicators still lack the tools to optimise their earned media strategies.

Getting coverage in a top-tier outlet is great, and it was once seen as the Holy Grail of PR in many circles. But the vast majority of brands will find their target audience makes up just a tiny proportion of the readership at these titles. Today, you can often achieve far greater results targeting nice publications and influencers whose audiences closely match your own.

PR and comms have quickly become a key ingredient in the marketing mix. But to get the most out of these channels, CMOs need to invest in the right tools to identify and target the best outlets for their business. What’s more, they must empower their comms teams to create campaigns that directly contribute to clear business objectives.

Making the case for earned media investment

Without a doubt, technology holds the key to business success if they want to remain competitive and to do so businesses must invest in new strategies; in both people and technology.

However, senior marketers of businesses know this and intuitively grasp the value of earned media. They know consumers trust it more than any other kind of marketing and see why it’s an essential weapon in any marketer’s arsenal. Yet, most businesses are still under-investing in it and over-investing in paid media.

In short, it’s not through lack of trying but instead because no self-respecting CMO makes investment decisions on a hunch. In 2018, you need to be tying your initiatives to business objectives to make the case for greater marketing investment.

Luckily, vanity metrics like reach will soon be a thing of the past and right now technology is demonstrating to some of the world’s biggest brands the impact earned media has on hard businesses metrics and the ROI of their campaigns. By doing so, it builds a case for investment in earned media and opens the eyes of CMOs to the potential of technology.

And it’s no exaggeration to say we’re now living through the greatest media revolution since the invention of the printing press; technology is transforming the way consumers interact with brands, helping organisations communicate with their audiences more effectively and helping marketers make the case for greater investment in PR and comms.

And what do we have to thank for this brave new world of media? The internet, of course.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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