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When reality shines through, consumers discover their superpowers

Reality shines through. CC photo credit: Flickr user Kathrin & Stefan

Hi, readers. Before you dig into this excerpt, I wanted to let you know about a few things I’ve done recently. I wrote a guest post for Brian Solis called “The diffusion of brand, ownership, and experience.”  It’s pretty high-level, but I think you’ll dig it. Also, I interviewed Don Tapscott, author of Macrowikinomics, Grown Up Digital, and Wikinomics. Lastly, I was featured in a short video about consumers realizing the value of their own data, which I embedded at the end of this post, since it’s very much related. That’s all for now. Enjoy the excerpt!

Consumers have escaped the channels that marketers built for them. Before the internet and social media, if we wanted information about a product before purchasing it, or about a company before doing business with it (or working for it), our options were severely limited. If our friends and family had no experience with what we were considering, and journalists weren’t covering it, print, TV, in-store and radio ads filled in the rest. In other words, marketers accessed consumers while consumers accessed content. Businesses were able to minimize the extent to which off-brand and unflattering messages reached consumers. They owned or rented almost all of the real estate in the media landscape, and they perfected the art of wooing a captive consumer audience. The internet, social media, and smart mobile devices gave consumers new avenues of access to information.

Reality began to intrude on the space previously occupied by squeaky-clean marketing facades—consumers were talking to each other, finding alternatives to overpriced or ineffective products, pouring sunlight on business practices that were previously hidden. They began to trust the opinions of total strangers more than the words of advertisers. Some consumer cohorts, like the Millennials (Generation Y), began to trust total strangers more than their own friends and family.

Consumers today can choose where and how to access information and communicate. One’s immediate circle rarely holds all the answers, and for the first time ever, it’s easy to find answers outside of that circle. Not all of the information is accurate; much of the content shared and created lacks substance or is plainly offensive; many consumer complaints are unfounded. But as a whole, we see consumers exercising options that are themselves new—as if all around the world, we’re discovering new superpowers and we’re excitedly learning to use them.

People being born today are digital and social natives, but perhaps more importantly, they are the first fully-empowered generation of consumers. What will they do with their new superpowers, with their new-found access and influence? We’re just beginning to find out, and luckily for those of us who study this kind of thing and businesses that are looking for new avenues to growth, the results are constantly coming in, billions of data points at a time.

Charles Angoff said, “History is a symphony of echoes heard and unheard.” The present and future are symphonies of data.

 



Ian Greenleigh
Author | Turning data into stories | Sr Mgr, Content & Social Strategy, Bazaarvoice | Former baby