Bulletin: Consumer Marketing Is Out, Customer Marketing Is In

jeremysteinbergThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Steinberg, senior vice president of digital ad sales for The Weather Company.

After attending my very first ANA Masters of Marketing conference, I will never be the same.

OK, maybe that is a tad dramatic, but what I saw and heard firsthand has shocked and inspired me. The increasing acceleration of technological change has turned the whole notion of consumer marketing in the digital age on its head. This is creating profound implications for marketers and the media companies that support them.

Over two days, I watched and heard the world’s top marketers tell very similar stories. Consumers are growing more powerful and independent, with expectations of the companies that produce and sell them products rising by the minute. This change forces marketers to turn their focus away from consumers in aggregate to the individual customer.

This is no easy task, but an increasing number of connected products and services are enabling one-to-one communication like never before and providing troves of data and insights, which marketers can now leverage across all channels and customer touchpoints.

Say goodbye to consumer marketing and hello to customer marketing.

The Power Of Technology

This unprecedented change in technology, specifically mobile, allows consumers to drive innovation, explained Stephen Quinn, Walmart’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Individuals want what they want and know they can get it. This means that as a marketer, it no longer comes down to who owns the consumer, but rather, whom the customer owns. To prosper, chief marketing officers need to become chief innovation officers and focus on building personal relationships with customers.

Connected devices, especially mobile devices, are transforming anonymous consumers into must-be-known customers, according to Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s chairman and chief executive officer. Benioff noted that behind every app, for example, is a customer to sell to, service and market to around the clock.  So understanding the dynamic needs of customers will require heavy technology investment. This investment will be so great that power will shift from the CIO to the CMO, who will ultimately spend more money on technology by 2017, Benioff said.

Customer insights drive the priorities of John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation at Dunkin Donuts. Customer engagement with his brands is radically changing. He is focused on a strategy that will embrace a 360-degree approach to meeting customer needs with consistency of messaging and experience across all customer touchpoints.

General Electric’s approach involves the concept of Industrial Internet, where all GE products will be connected to the Internet, said Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president. This will give the company unprecedented access to their customers in order to witness how they interact with GE products and better understand their customers’ ongoing needs. Ultimately this insight will enable remarkable innovation.

Technology is opening up unprecedented access for marketers to reach and interact with customers. This change places marketers at the center of driving growth within their respective companies. Since marketing new products and services is being replaced by managing relationships with individual customers, marketers are in the best position to unlock key customer insights and needs to drive product innovation.

So how do media companies support the new age of customer marketing? How can they maintain their relevance to provide comprehensive solutions that fit within this new paradigm? They must align their vision with those of the marketers and, most importantly, the customer.

Media companies must understand their consumers in unprecedented ways and adopt a customer-focused mindset. Loose understandings of their audience will need to be supplanted by deep connected relationships. Media companies will need to prove their value to marketers, not in the number of people they reach, but in the relationships they build to drive the deepest outcomes.

Two Takeaways For Media Companies

The first thing media companies must do is heavily invest in technology. Building and maintaining the right infrastructure will enable the best understanding of what customers want and need as they continue to evolve. Ultimately, marketers will rely on media properties that can provide the most insightful access to customers. Marketers must also look for media companies that understand all customer touchpoints and leverage them to drive the best results.

The second strategy media companies must employ to align with new marketers’ needs is to create all products with a mobile-first mindset. The power of mobile is growing by the day and this platform will dominate customer connections. Media companies will need to prove to marketers that they have invested in the mobile know-how to engage the evolved consumer.

Media companies that can provide this connection will ultimately be best positioned to help marketers connect to their customers.

Follow Jeremy Steinberg (@jeremysteinberg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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