I used to drive a 12-year old VW Jetta. The air-conditioning had gone out. My mechanic who has teased it back to life so many times just shook his head and said, "too old, too expensive, buy a new car." I would tough it out but I live in a swamp (Washington DC) and when it comes to oppressive summer and fall heat, I am not tough.
What will influence my choice? Is it the muscular yet soul-less TV advertisements from most car companies? Is it the clever Web sites that let me configure the car any which way I can? Or is it what my neighbor says, how others like me rate the car online, what Larry – my friend who works at a car dealership – says, or even what the employees of a car company tell me about their pride in their own cars? It's all of that and more. Influence planning is the most holistic view of marketing that takes into account trust, persuasion, how we make decisions and even neuroscience. It also explains why we are all so fascinated with social media.
We care about social media because it activates word of mouth – the most trusted source for many purchase decisions and opinions. Social media doesn’t behave like a ‘channel’ defying our desire to manage it like advertising. For the next few years, influence planning will be just as much art as science. Only brands that need to innovate and are dissatisfied with a .025% click-through rate need apply.
Examine influence planning through a microscope and five sub-disciplines appear:
Word of Mouth Marketing: This is social media's heart. The implicit or explicit endorsement of a fellow human being when they post a comment, Tweet a link, write a review, write a wall post on Facebook, or pass along a video has a significantly greater (if not exponentially greater) impact on our selection process than advertising alone. (learn more at the November WOMMA Summit)
Social and Behavioral Marketing: What I do online reveals tons about my interests and intent. Now add to that who I know and advertisers have a better opportunity to deliver the right content to the right person often via their social graph. The trick will be to aggressively demonstrate how the process protects privacy and serves the public.
"Marketing 3.0": Philip Kotler embraces this phrase to describe the combination of classic marcom with principle-driven business. The basics of marcom did not suddenly vaporize once social media burst onto the scene. We simply need to adapt them to a universe where social media makes manipulation and inauthentic behaviors near-impossible to get away with. (get a white paper from Kotler & Kartajaya here)
Neuroscience: Scientists now watch our brains react to marketing via MRI's and other 21st century devices. While clearly bleeding edge this may have more practical application in the future.
The Compound Effect: Okay, I made this one up. Research has already established the compound effect of paid and earned media - ads near social content - and how much more powerful they can be. We will see more on this in the coming years.
It's a Ford
My next car will be a Ford. Sure, they are my client and it is "good manners," as David Ogilvy put it, to buy our clients products. But that's not why I am doing it. I will buy a Ford because in my role I have seen the constant flow of consumer generated media - blog posts, videos, pictures, Tweets, Facebook wall posts and more - not just from top influencers in social media but regular people who all have had some experience with Ford recently. Often, they gush. Sometimes they even care enough to criticize the company. That's all good. I prefer doing business with brands that others care that much about.
I have also gotten to know the people at Ford via their social media posts. The company is not just a monolithic building in Dearborn. They are serious , committed and earnest. Thousands of people have met them online via videos posted on TheFordStory.com, many met them on the road when they introduced the Ford 2010 Taurus. I believe in their love of the company, their customers and the products they make. Ford leadership believes in its products and people enough to let both speak for themselves. Getting to know the people helped me feel connected and, yes, even share compassion for them as they "rebooted" the company.
Brands who take influence planning seriously will start by embracing a deep and strategic approach to using social media. They may not wake up next Tuesday and say "I need to transform the way I market," but once they get started they’ll be hooked.
Update: I am now the happy owner of a 2010 Ford Fusion. Black, of course. I love everything about it. I will not gush as that would not be dignified.