The market is a multi player playing field. And the consumers are players too! Now, consumers can either play with brands or against them.
Let me explain.
The fact that marketing and branding have been a focus for protests is nothing new. It is simply proof that advertising and marketing have become powerful. The new thing is that the opposition to brand names is no longer limited to ideological groups like Greenpeace or leftists.
With the development of digital networks and a new post-industrial consumer culture, it is ordinary consumers who wake up one morning and decide to play not with brands, but against them.
These are protesters who forsake official demonstrations for ‘flash mobs’ and press announcements for ‘posts’. Their weapons are blogs and social networks. They work in their pajamas, safe and warm at home, drinking soda to stay up all night online.
Their power is absolute. It is measured by their Google PageRank and the number of hits they receive.
Fighting a brand becomes a game. Points are tallied. Just as in a game, the raison d‘être is to free yourself from the rules, to master and transform them.
“Such and such a brand wants to impose this product or rule of consumption on me. Well, I have the power to challenge it.”
“This brand is dishonest; this product is of poor quality. Well, I have the power to advertise the fact.”
Consumers are therefore far more dangerous for brands than politically active groups, because their discourse is not ideological, but real consumer speak, which is far more likely to convince the vast majority.
This alone is a profound change in the relationship between brands and consumers. We no longer have complete power over the consumer. We are now in an equal marketing relationship.
Not only do consumers decode marketing strategies but, better still, they are capable of producing new ones or subverting them for the purposes of social or political mobilization.
With new media it often means that certain particularly skilful consumers have a greater capacity to distribute information on a large scale via the Internet than groups with a wealth of financial power at their disposal. The development of image alteration tools coupled with the viral effect means that anyone can become a marketing agent.
It also means that instead of playing against you they can play for you. They can be your voice, your brand ambassadors, your community leaders and your heroes.
These new consumers, symbolized by bloggers, instagrammers and social media savants are constantly on the move and it is up to the brands to internalize the idea that consumers have the power. The brands that understand this have a significantly better chance of coming out victorious in this game than those who do not.
Written By: Bruno Walther