Written by Neil Dunne
The traditional 4P marketing model introduced by Borden in 1964 was the dominant logic that most, if not all marketers used to guide all their decisions and actions in regards to marketing (Borden, 1964). The 4P model, consisting of ‘Product’, ‘Place’, ‘Price’ and ‘Promotion’ (Borden, 1964) work very well in the mass market dominated world in which it was developed and would be one of the reasons for its longevity as a standard bearer for the marketing world (Dominici, 2009). With the introduction of the internet as a new medium to communicate to their customers, it was believed that the 4P model, designed for mass market products, would suffice and even thrive on such a medium. The internet allowed for greater targeting of customers, while still allowing brands to control their message and in turn, their brand image. The communication was one way, with the brand communicating to the customer, with little or no communication back from the customer. With Web1.0, the brand still believed that they should be in control in the marketing sphere and this is what occurred. (Christodoulides, 2009)
However, customers’ usage of the internet changed and what customers wanted from companies changed also. With Web 2.0, platforms for individuals to create content on the internet developed in the forms of blogs, chat forums, social networking sites, photo and video sharing sites etc. This led to customers beginning to communicate more with themselves and also back to the companies. The communication changed from a one-way communication process to a two-way communication process. This would lead to a shift away from the prior dominate marketing logic of brands developing a brand image for their brand and then communicating this to the target customer towards a more interactive approach where customers could both communicate back to the brands, as well as with other customers. (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009; Winer,2009)
With this new two-way interactive communication, more control has shifted from the brand and companies to the customers. It can be said now that the power lies in the hands of the customers within this two sided process of interactive internet marketing. Companies must take this very much into consideration in regards to their marketing strategies. The internet allows customers to interact with the brand which has resulted in customers having more of a say in how a brand is perceived and how a brand should and can be developed. This changes the previous process of a brand simply developing a brand strategy and communicating this to the customer in order to create a brand identity. The customer has become an integral part of the both marketing process and product/service development; customers have become co-creators. Brands are created by the interaction between the company and the customer and this has been the result of the internet creating the platforms that allow the customer to have their say. (Christodoulides, 2009; Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009)
With this power shift, in terms of consumers now appearing to have greater power in the marketing relationship between consumers and companies, personalisation and customisation have become more prominent a feature of both marketing and product/service development (Winer, 2009). The internet and Web 2.0 has created a greater demand for customisation and personalisation by consumers in many previously industries where mass market products would have previously dominated. The two-way interactive communication has given rise to consumers being able to demand and force companies to have to customise and personalise their offerings to create demand for them amongst these web savvy consumers. (Christodoulides, 2009)
The development of customers having their say within the marketing process has meant that they have become an important source of information in regards to brands and companies. They have become marketers and co-creators of the brands themselves. (Wind, 2008) They are no longer just passive consumers whose only input was to purchase the product/service but now both help to develop new products and services that demand and also play an important role in creating the brand image. With Web 2.0 and the development of blogs, forums, social networks and other such platforms that allow consumers to share their views, consumers have begun to disseminate their own information about brands and products and services. (Winer, 2009) And this information has become part of the marketing message that helps create the brand identity. Consumers, through communication amongst themselves in online communities and communication with the companies themselves, share a marketing message that can become a marketing message for a company, whether a company likes it or not, whether it agrees with it or not and even whether it is positive or not. (Wind, 2008; Winer, 2009)
Companies are no longer the only ones who are involved in the marketing of their products and must realise the importance of consumers’ communication to the marketing strategy of their brands. The power shift that has become apparent in the marketing sphere means that for many, brands will just interject into the communication of opinions and beliefs which consumers share on the internet about the various brands and their products and services (Deighton, L. Kornfeld, 2009). The brand must come to terms with this new role as brand facilitators where they no longer control the conversations about their brand but they must facilitate conversation by consumers about the brand. (Christodoulides, 2009)
The online communities that consumers have used as platforms to express their opinion in regard to the offerings of companies; are places where they can express their own individuality. They are places where customisation and personalisation can be created by individuals. (Christodoulides, 2009) The mass of online communities that have sprung up on the internet and the development of Web 2.0 create a great opportunity for brands to interject into and facilitate the conversations about their brands as mentioned by Christodoulides (2009). However, companies must understand how to use them in a manner that is both acceptable to the community users and that is beneficial to their brand identity. The sense of ownership over the communities and the conversations that occur within these online communities is what creates the benefit for consumers and plays a strong role in their popularity. (Seraj, 2012) As consumers feel in control of the conversations, they do not feel that they are being sold to and can feel comfortable to express their opinions. So for a large organisation to come in and try to take ownership of the community may be unwise at it could both hinder free express that is key in this market where personalisation and customisation play such an important role. Therefore, again as stated by Christodoulides (2009), brands should facilitate these conversations, interjecting only to aid in the conversation. By doing so, brands can create long term customer relationships that can give companies a great competitive advantage which is vitally important as co-creation, personalisation and customisation grow in relevance to customers. (Head et al, 2005)
This facilitation of the conversations around brands can be to create the platform for consumers to share, interact and take ownership of as described by Wind, (2008) when discussing the efforts of Nike with their running programme called Nike+ which allows users to share all their running experiences with others. The platform, although created by Nike appears to have overcome the issue of brand control in the marketing message with a strong sense of ownership by its users. Nike facilitates the conversation of running but all the time, their name is being associated with these conversations and with some interjections by Nike, their brand name is shared, discussed and communicated about across the internet.
As has been stated throughout this paper, much has changed within the field of marketing since the introduction of the internet including the strategies and the participants. However, Barwise et al (2010), give a warning that of course the internet has changed the way in which marketing is conducted however it has not fully turned the concept of marketing on its head. Companies must of course understand the new input that consumers have on their product/service development and marketing strategies. Withstanding this, brands must still develop these marketing strategies for their offerings and this must be done offline first prior to utilising the internet to create the desired brand identity. Brands cannot fully rely upon consumers to develop and communicate the brand identity for them and brands still must have a clear idea on what they want their brand to do and to stand for. (Barwise et al, 2010) Armelini and Villanueva (2009) discuss the power of word of mouth (WOM) in online marketing as a powerful tool that has become an important influencer upon consumers’ decision making process. Consumers feel more open towards the authentic nature of WOM marketing as it does not come directly from companies, allowing it to resonate with consumers in a more real and meaningful manner. However, solely relying upon WOM and social media for marketing is not what should be done by brands. Instead, as Armelini and Villanueva (2009) suggest the power with online WOM communication and social media communication is that it acts as a complimentary tool to the traditional offline marketing concepts and so, online marketing cannot be treated in isolation. Therefore, as Barwise et al (2010) suggest, the brand strategy and identity should be firstly developed off line and then through the use of the internet facilitate the communication and sharing of the brand and its identity. (Barwise et al, 2010) By doing so, WOM communication can be created by consumers that compliments and amplifies the brand message. (Armelini and Villanueva, 2009)
Two of the major issues with online marketing are where and how to measure their online marketing efforts. (Armelini and Villanueva, 2009; Winer, 2009) The difficulties within this Web 2.0 internet marketing arena is that there are a large number of different platforms open to both companies and consumers alike. Brands cannot be present involved in all conversations about their brand and interacting with all consumers would not be possible and here lies the problem. Where should brands be present and where should they interject on the internet. Of course this will vary for different consumers but by knowing and understanding their consumers, brands can narrow down the large number of different platforms to pick out the important places where they can facilitate and interject in the manner that can create the positive brand identity the company desires. (Winer, 2009) Following on from this, measuring the outcomes of online marketing can be difficult as traditional metrics cannot capture the full picture (Armelini and Villanueva, 2009). However, if companies know what they are intending to measure (whether it be awareness, WOM effectiveness etc.), a very good understanding of the effectiveness of their marketing efforts can be achieved and an understanding of consumers opinions and actions can be gained. (Armelini and Villanueva, 2009)
So as can be seen, much has changed in marketing due to the companies coming to terms with the internet and Web 2.0. A clear power shift from the company to the consumer can be seen to have occurred in regards to marketing and the communication has become two-way communication. Consumers have taken on the role as co-creators which has led to a more personalised and customised approach in regards to the offerings and marketing of companies and also the information created by the consumers themselves. However, a warning must be levelled against those who believe that the traditional marketing concepts are all defunct. Online and offline marketing cannot be treated in isolation, nor can the traditional approach be ignored. Brands must still develop their marketing strategies that allow them to get to where they want their brand to be and this approach must then be transferred to the online sphere. Here, the brands must facilitate the conversation around their brand, understanding that authentic WOM communication amplifies their brand message.
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