Forget Big Society, if you haven’t already, and embrace Digital Society, because that has been the actual focus for many people over the past three years.
Social media, social engagement, open data, social commerce are all buzzwords for how corporate marketing teams armed with their brands can prize the lid off our little digital communities and sell their wares. Social Media evangelists will insist that keeping the social space pure and free of marketing should remain the goal and advocacy will drive deserving businesses to succeed. But the mathematicians have already proved that the volumes don’t exist and commercially this just doesn’t work.
I don’t necessarily approach this with any degree of cynicism, working in marketing we quickly learn that the monetisation of new technologies and media channels often leads to consumer advantage. Aggregators, price comparison sites and Google in general are testament to that.
The problem comes with the sheer volume of noise that is directed at us all everyday of our lives. Recently quoted up to 5000 messages per person per day in the UK. That’s a lot of glare. Competition for consumer attention has become rife and disabling. Social platforms are the new highway from brands to consumers, and in the most part quite cost effective. Unfortunately, there are just too many products and too many companies wanting to sell them. More choice has led to more competition, hence the familiar spiral of commoditisation to many products that are innovative, new and exciting.
However, the economic downturn has thrown a curve ball. Interesting market trends have emerged, particularly the parting of the sea between low cost and high cost goods. Less money floating around means clear differentiation does win the sale, and there is still a market for high priced goods. Consumers will still pay a premium for brands like Apple, because they’re clearly defined and deliver on their brand promise.
But let’s not ignore that it’s still tough to sell in this economic climate. The advertising mantra of open, honest and fairly priced have never been more true. But the big difference still lies in relevance. Clarity of proposition and differentiation based on market demand is what will sustain businesses long term. Anyone else is dead in the water.