Social media has fueled a long-brewing change in marketing. No, I am not talking about the concept that the consumer is in charge. That is certainly truer today than ever. But what drives consumer choice is a complex labyrinth of influence. Contructed of peer recommendations, family traditions, Google search results, glossy print ads that drive us online to participate, mobile utilities that go beyond delivering just the right message at just the right time to actually delivering just the right service when we need it - all of these influence our opinion and ultimate choice. They exert that influence based upon equally complex patterns of psychology and user intent. The causality of a friend's recommendation, a series of online reviews, an ad against my favorite TV show and what is returned in Google while considering a new car is just plain hard to understand. Simply figuring out where to place repetitive messages in my path essentially continues the practice of "Head On" reach and frequency marketing.
Channel-based Planning Too Simple For Today
Channel-based media planning which has dominated the marcom discipline for years is inherently too limited as an organizing and planning principle for this next age of influence. This past week, I presented a session at Rapleaf's Social Graph Symposium that began with my headline, "Influence Planning Will Eclipse Media Planning," in an attempt to provoke a debate. Had their been any media people there or even any appreciable advertising folks, it just might have erupted into fisticuffs or, at least, name-calling. The fact that the crowd was all technologists and social media marketers is indicative of the shift.
Three Big Changes to Planning
To transform our fascination with influence into a full-fledged planning discipline, we need to do three things: overhaul our research habits, adopt new tools and skills for planning accurately and effectively and apply new measurement standards and proxies that go beyond the counting of impressions or simplistic formulas for GRPs.
New Modes of Research
Current marketing research focuses on demographics and media habits. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. Knowing how old a consumer is, what their income is and if they are a man or woman matters when you are trying to match up against the known readership of a magazine or visitors to a Website. But if you focus on what will nfluence them to a decision, a behavior change or opinion, you might start somewhere radically different.
To understand and then affect influence we need to look deeper into psychology, sociology, behavior, intent and digital habits (not just what people visit but what we do). Read Cialdini's books on Influence for a good compendium of the psychology and behavior of persuasion. Their are many other relevant research projects on how we make decisions or form beliefs and even more popular books that have modest heft like the Heath brothers' Made to Stick. My favorite anecdote from Cialdini is the study he did about motivating homeowners to cut their power usage. By delivering them a snapshot of how they stacked up in relation to their immediate neighbors, they were able to drive a change in behavior. Now health social marketers are tapping into localized data to try and use the same technique to drive healthy behaviors.
By listening to what people are saying online publicly via their blogs, Facebook posts, tweets and by researching what people are searching for in Google, we can form very accurate pictures about attitude and intent. Are they shopping for a car? Are they worried about their weight or health? What words do they use when searching for answers about skincare? This the research we do at Ogilvy via Listening Posts and Consumer Intent Modeling now.
Our digital lives are a rich pattern of utility, information and entertainment, By examining how we use our phones, our social networks, our inbox and our Web sites, we can find new ways to be of-use to other consumers and get beyond messaging to enablement and empowerment, even. How we use digital is even more important than what media we consume. Don't get me wrong, traditional advertising is not going away. As my co-presenter at The Social Graph Symposium, Paul Rand, put it, word of mouth (the driver of influence) will be at the center of the marcom mix going forward.
Next up: New Planning Tools & Skills