This post is co-authored with Andrew Essary
If you haven't been in hibernation over the last few years, you ought to be well aware of the incredible changes the world has undergone. How we work, operate, live and even think has been transformed by the power of a constantly connected mobile and "social" world. These changes have affected nearly every discipline and the ways in which they operate and interact, from designers to product managers, marketers and leadership alike.
Traditional Marketing Communications Theory holds a hierarchy of effects that illustrates the consumer progressing along the following logical path and resulting in full product immersion for the consumer: 1. Awareness. 2. Interest. 3. Evaluation. 4. Trial. 5. Adoption. 6. Reinforcement. 7. Advocacy.
How has the increased focus on technology and the ever-faster evolution and affordances of the consumer impacted this traditional approach? The truth is that in the past you would see an advertisement (a poster or a TV commercial once TV's came around). You would become interested in the product so you would go to the store or call a number, at which point you would be confronted with an actual person who would bring home the sale. After making your purchase, whether you had an enjoyable or a negative experience, you would pass on this information to anyone you met, be they a family member or friend, to a next door neighbor or even a stranger buying a similar product. In this way it is clear that word of mouth has always been a primary marketing tool, but the difference today is that the medium is now instantaneous and much more far-reaching, traversing time zones and oceans in a split second. No sooner are you unhappy with a product or service than everyone will know about it with the simple click of a "thumbs down" or a post of an image.
Given this reality, there are a couple of core considerations that should affect your marketing approach today, as there is an increase in the amount of factors to think about, as well as the interaction and balance between them. The golden rule to help you achieve success is to always keep in mind the reach and accessibility of all that you say and do.
Consumers are Moving more Rapidly to Trial
With "computing everywhere", people are always connected. It is always possible to download that latest application or to find out the "truth" about a company, product or service you might be interested in. This has led to a trend where consumers are moving rapidly to trial - the first three traditional stages are completed in much less time than your carefully planned focus would have preferred before. This doesn't mean that you do not need to plan for awareness and interest - more that you need to understand how quickly a consumer will now want to and expect to trial your product. These dynamics have even spilled over to Enterprise. Before, we would all submit an RFP and some lucky contestant would get selected. Now, customers expect to be able to try-before-they-buy - they expect to be able to see and interact with an experience before making their decision. Proof of concepts and cost-free demos are no longer just for the latest start-up application; they have become an expectation - even on established contracts and Enterprise accounts.
With a new speed to trial, instant gratification is a must. Your consumers will need to emotionally connect and recognize the value in your product or service very quickly. In a departure from the traditional hierarchy, extraneous variables mean that these early stages can no longer be "controlled" by the offering agent. Now, consumers will need to experience that value for themselves.
Advocacy has Bumped up the Chain
Advocacy, once the end of the chain and the sign of true success, can now easily occur at almost any stage in the marketing process. After a customer becomes aware of your product, they could share their awareness instantly, along with whichever slant they see fit, with a simple update to their social media. The Marketer today needs to understand how the evolving Marketing Mix can be used for various outcomes. They need to know exactly how to maximize interest and engagement through newer digital and physical mediums, as well more traditional approaches.
With the ease in which people can let their feelings be known, it is imperative that companies today are fully aware of their online identity. What is the sentiment out there when people hear your company name? In today's world, 3 out of 5 stars is simply not OK. Whether what people say about you is true or not, the real "truth" of the matter will be disseminated in what people write and what they believe, especially if they are able to find multiple points of view agreeing with them. Perception is even more becoming the reality, especially in the ever-evolving social media environment. This means that you truly need to understand and be able to adjust to the fact that potential customers may now hold preconceived opinions of your company or product, even of you personally, before you have even reached them through your existing and planned marketing channels.
Driving Interest via Group Effect
As mentioned, the traditional hierarchical flow has been impacted by disruptive technologies and a new way of thinking. Marketers today need to understand how to utilize new avenues to impact the marketing flow. For example, awareness no longer comes from your advertisements alone - the first time a customer hears of you could be from one of their friends posting online. Once they have an interest, a customer may go in search of validation to see how others have experienced you, the company and your product. Evaluations these days happen in multiple ways - via video or an immersive trial, for example - but they are getting more and more accessible with many companies employing free-from-website, download and expire, or even asking influencers directly to try it out, all before seeing a penny in revenue.
The dynamic of always on and connected means a customer can always check. They can look you up as soon as they need to, whenever they hear of you, even while you are still interacting with them. Whatever you say can be validated or checked at any given moment. In this environment there is no room for smoke and mirrors. The only way to respond is to drive belief by proving your value through the experience you deliver at every point of interaction.
Disruptive technologies are causing a tremendous shift in industry norms across multiple verticals, while technology is changing the way we must consider more traditional processes and domains. Marketers today can embrace this disruption by really understanding what it means for product features, roadmap and competition. This understanding shows top of mind for companies that are developing new and emerging innovations and markets. Trial and error experimentation is no longer something to be feared. On the contrary, its increasingly common use in the marketplace supports the fact that the path to success now includes many forks along the road.
What it Means to Marketers Today
Marketers today can benefit hugely from understanding Experience Design thinking and the interaction points between the meaning of the user's experience and its marketing. It can help you to think through the whole ecosystem of a user interacting with your solution, from awareness through to engagement and purchase - as well as the feedback and feed-forward loops. This applied thinking can also help to define and determine how the physical and digital worlds can play a role in customer engagement and satisfaction, which, as we all know, equals success in today's marketplace.
For more information on how Experience Design can help your marketing efforts, as well as tailored Experience Design training and workshops exclusively for Marketing Professionals , contact effectUX here
Marketing Mix: Traditional --- McCarthy, Jerome E. (1960). Basic Marketing. A Managerial Approach. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.
Marketing Mix: 1990's --- Lauterborn, B. (1990). New Marketing Litany: Four Ps Passé: C-Words Take Over. Advertising Age, 61(41), 26.
Marketing Mix: 2011 --- Byers, Charles. "Marketing Review & The Role of IMC in Marketing." Santa Clara University MBA lecture. Santa Clara University, Santa Clara. 06 January 2014. Lecture.