The new marketing playbook acknowledges consumers are in control of brands’ fate

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers -- not manufacturers -- are in control of brands’ fate
The days of pushing out a refined, tightly controlled marketing message without listening to what consumers want to know are long over, and brands that want to make it in the modern world must listen first, according to a top marketing professional with Ketchum PR.

“The marketing toolkit, the basic playbook we have all used for decades, is as irrelevant as many of the products that have suffered over the recent years,” ​Linda Eatherton, managing director and partner at Ketchum Global Food & Beverage practice told attendees at FoodNavigator-USA’s FoodVision event in Chicago this month.

She explained the most significant change in marketing in recent years has been power shift from brands to consumers.

“The person in control of your brands, is not you. It is the consumer. There has been a fundamental shift in power where consumers now have control over the future and the direction your brands will take. And that is okay. It is just the way it is now,”​ she said. But it also means that companies need a new marketing strategy.

Perfection is no longer the goal

For example, she said, brands will no longer get ahead by only emphasizing the positives and deemphasizing the negatives – rather they need to acknowledge their shortcomings and outline how they are improving in order to gain consumers trust.

“Being perfect or being the best or the only or the first or the most – immediately sends up a red flag”​ for consumers that says, “Hang on, that is spin,”​ Eatherton said.

On that note, she said, consumers want details on how a company is progressing towards perfection and by sharing that information brands will earn consumers’ permission to be a part of their lives.

“In the old playbook, marketing was all about disruption. But today it is more about permission,”​ Eatherton said, adding that “shoving a piece of copy or creative or advertising in someone’s face to get their attention … is not going to stick, unless you earn permission for the right to communicate.”

Create an open dialogue with a ‘choir’ of representatives

Similarly, she said, marketing today is no longer a one-way street – it is a dialogue. As such, Eatherton said, “the monolithic companies of the past that knew it all, and did it all perfectly, now need to be far more accessible and discoverable … they can’t be perfect anymore, but in a state of continuous improvement about which they boldly talk.”

To pull off this new form of communication, brands need to replace the single spokesperson of the old playbook with a “choir”​ of people talking about the brand and business in different ways, Eatherton said.

“Repeating the same message 100 times is not going to work. It must be dynamic and exciting,”​ she added. “The business of building relationships through technology, through activities and engagement is really what marketing is all about today.”

Earned media is more effective than paid media

On that note, paid media tactics that drove marketing in the past, are no longer the best way to reach consumers, Eatherton said. Rather, she said, media needs to be earned – something that is “way, way, way harder … but the value, the quality, the resonance and stickiness is really much higher.”

Companies can earn media and consumers’ permission by ditching the corporate speak in favor of talking to them the same way someone talks to a neighbor that they like, and by really listening to what consumers need and responding, she said.

Companies also earn consumers’ permission through their actions, stories, ongoing conversations and images rather than broadcast messages that fall on deaf ears.

Ultimately, by following these new rules of engagement brands will achieve consumer trust by becoming transparent, which Eatherton notes is not about providing more information, but rather about providing more access that consumers can accept when and as they are ready.

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