It is award season in the PR industry and that means recognizing the very best campaigns. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we should add a new category this year – one to recognize all those consumers who are ultimately responsible for a campaign’s success.
Product designers and engineers across an array of industries have long focused on the consumer in control – offering us endless options to manage our health, entertainment, home environment, vacation plans, and more. E-commerce has kept pace, putting the consumer in control of when and where they make purchases.
In between how a product is made and how it’s purchased comes marketing. The notion that consumers don’t want to be marketed to isn’t new to any of us in the PR industry, and that’s played to PR practitioners’ advantage.
We’ve known for some time that consumers are fast-forwarding through commercials, which, by disrupting the entertainment experience, may in fact create more negative sentiment about a brand than positive. But consumers today are in control of much more than we would like to think, and that requires a genuine shift in how we market – if we market at all.
Steve Jobs once said, "It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want." Respectfully, I believe we have entered a new era. For the most part, today’s consumer knows what they want – and certainly knows what they don’t. The smartest brands get consumers to market for them. That creates something truly impactful and sustaining: marketing becomes more than a finite campaign, taking on the shape and sound of a movement. Social media has provided the virtual broadcasting licenses and printing presses hardly imaginable a decade ago.
So, should you start a movement or tap into one? That depends on how much time you have and brand resources, among other factors. Start by listening, then understanding the brand’s potential role and developing the creative elements. Be prepared to react as movement transpires – at the speed at which today’s consumers are moving. It’s a marketer’s job today to turn consumers into marketers.
Finally, be ruthlessly objective. Test-drive your work with others who will give you straight feedback. Put yourself in your target’s shoes and ask if you would want to spend time with – and share – that video, sponsored post, or any other content you’ve created, and be unafraid to refine, or even start over.
Remember, they’re not just consumers. They’re people.
Laura Tomasetti is CEO and founder of 360 Public Relations.