Are you psy or spy ?
Both, – might reply a well-known eponymous Korean singer, Psy, who likes to wear spy looking suits from early disco years. But the question also concerns marketers and their investigative methods in a context of market turmoil, largely due to the rise of social networks and of new exchange practices between consumers and business companies.
Then? Spy or Psy? Beyond the pun, by observing today’s marketing trends, we find two competing or complementary ways to deal with consumers … spy and psy marketing.
The first one, with the help of maths and technology, attempts to refine better and better its behavioral surveys in order to identify the consumers’ unconscious motivations faster and sooner. This change is mainly technological. To make it simple let’s say it replaced traditional magnifying glass that enlarges a footprint etched into the ground by a highly advanced microscope able to zoom in and record, before it disappears, the mark left by the leg of a fly on the surface of a lake.
The Big Data phenomenon, amplified by the multiplication of connected objects, helps companies better understand consumers, at such a level of accuracy and speed that their messages can now target any individual and not just typical groups of consumers. Spy marketing is very popular these days, boosted by the RTB (Real-Time Bidding ) and the emergence of ad exchange platforms that improve the results of retargeting mechanisms by personalizing the message at the upmost and by delivering it in a split second based on purchase indices, increasingly thin, such as a single #hashtag .
This set of techniques gives excellent results in e-commerce but to be truly effective, it requires the ability to adapt its content to a large number of buyer profiles on the same support. This is a complex process, expensive, expert, in one word – spy.
The second is more direct : it aims at convincing the consumer to confess himself in exchange for some kind of benefit, and with the argument that “it costs him nothing”. The consumer’s declaration of intent, to be useful, must be sincere, and that is the premise of this approach. It means publishing high quality content to generate a real engagement from the consumer.
Brand content strategies, combining elements of event, gamification, ethics, or curating information, match this category. Also, from the same point of view, it is noticeable for example that in a social network brands focus attention less on their official web page and more on their customers or fans pages who will relay information or events to the crowd and create virality.
These methods also are very effective and sometimes are available at lower cost, but as soon as you give the floor to consumers, you lend the same weight to their message as to influencers’. Social networks widely emphasize this phenomenon which is a direct threat to the public image companies had built for themselves with so much investment of time, care and money.
Having consumers (not only direct customers) recommending your brand is also an expert work because a well-educated audience increases in demands and expectations, particularly in terms of commitment and sincerity on the part of the brand or company.
C2B and Vigilant Marketing
Psy or spy ? Both, actually, since the common part of these two schools of thought, psy and spy, is to refine the way business companies, institutions and brands are listening to consumers, to be more informative when delivering content and to let them take initiative. All these attempts count as incursions into the territory of C2B (Consumer-to-business). However, vigilant marketing aims to go further by interacting directly with consumers in a positive and open way, which means, on one hand, giving them more freedom and a true decision power while, on the other hand, developing appropriate tools to decipher their messages and actions.
In this new C2B relationship, customers decide not only the product they wish to purchase or promote, but also the advertisings they wish to receive and even how they wish to receive them.
Think of that : you just need a simple adblocker to make all RTB technology and experts useless, an unfortunate campaign title or a wrong timing for product launch can quickly buzz around and ruin all your efforts. To avoid those traps, it is urgent to imagine how permission marketing can be more agile, reactive and viral in order to improve relevance to this new kind of transaction we call C2B. A good starting point might be to examine lean thinking methods, for example.
C2B concept, when applied to marketing, helps to understand and combine these two models, with perspective and tools to get the best results from them.
The main fields of C2B concept are:
- Move from product strategy towards service strategy.
- Change mindset from social network strategy to collaborative network strategy.
- Involve the consumer in the process of product development.
- Involve the consumer in the process of product marketing.
- Involve the consumer in the process of product recommendation.
- Create themes, topics and user experience that will engage the consumer with the product.
- Find and develop disruptive, customer centric marketing methods.
- Encourage consumers to share resources with offers that promote collaborative production and/or consumption.
Consumers have taken power! They know what they want, and they are not easily taken in… This is good news, because it opens our way towards more ethical, more efficient, more eco-aware markets with a more balanced power struggle. The competition, which had become more and more unfair in the past decades due to the influence of large international companies, is taking a fresh start thanks to this consumers’ new power. C2B concept aims at engaging consumers with real arguments that go beyond the seduction, to re-humanize the classic B2C relationship for the benefit of all, consumers and business organizations.
Vigilant marketing, as a concrete C2B market approach, remains to be defined. The goal is to create new tools, to improve feedback information, detection and alert, and continuous testing of the audience: it is therefore an iterative and interactive marketing, that challenges the traditional top-down and prediction-based vision in companies and institutions. “Vigilant” because it consists in a permanent and active awareness, in the sense that we already talk about active listening for example, but also in the sense that it is resolutely turned towards experimentation and discovery of new territories like a lookout discovering an unknown coast.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken.
 John Keats, On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer.