With the customer now centre-stage, companies need to come up with new forms of customer-centric communication and linkage. This may push them to change their business model, says Alexis Mons.

A Company’s Marketing Approach May Alter its Business Model

Alexis Mons is Vice-President, Strategy, of Emakina, a full-service ‘digital native’ agency, and author of “Marketing et la communication à l'épreuve des foules intelligentes”* (‘Marketing and Communication under Challenge from the Wisdom of Crowds). He talked to L’Atelier about his findings.

L’Atelier: Brands are increasingly involving consumers in the product creation process, or getting them to become real brand ambassadors. Does this augur the demise of Marketing as we know it today?

Alexis Mons:Well, it’s certainly not the death of marketing – far from it! But we have seen the end of Marketing dominance, because we’ve now moved to a form of marketing that is not visible to the naked eye. The job of a marketer is to close the distance between the brand and the public. Now that the consumer has seized power, we’re seeing the value chain being turned on its head. Thanks to the Internet, individual people can choose to act collectively. In addition to being in the driving seat, it’s the customers who now set the criteria by which brands are assessed. The most ‘in touch’ brands no longer make any direct promises at all but instead focus on cultivating the values of feeling and experience among their customers.

These brands do almost no advertising; they get their customers to share experiences with each other directly online. What these brands are trying to do is to ensure that the values they are seeking to convey are perfectly in sync with what the customers recognise in the brand. In fact what is dying the death is the one-way approach to communication, whereby a brand simply announces to the world what it’s all about. That only worked before customers were connected to each other. But now, in the Internet era, anything a brand puts out there can be countered. If, for example, a brand lays claims to certain credentials, the general public can collectively send back the message: “No, you can’t claim those credentials!”

L’Atelier: There’s also a lot of innovation going on internally, isn’t there?

Alexis Mons:That’s true, and indeed a brand has to take all its stakeholders into account, both its customers and its own staff.  The key asset that staff have is that they’re experts in the service that’s being sold to the customer. It’s therefore a very good idea to integrate their ability to generate ideas and harness them as a source of innovation. Enterprise 2.0 is about applying everything to do with collaborative working and Web 2.0 at the firm and trying to create specific employee communities within the company.

L’Atelier: So, what marketing trends do you see ahead?

Alexis Mons:For several years we’ve been seeing companies which make Marketing the central thrust of their business. Apple is a good example. Before that everything was centred on distribution and the sales department. Now we’re shifting the focus on to service. Take Nike for instance: the company has launched a ‘connected’ bracelet which calculates the number of calories consumed by the wearer during the day. Not a pair of connected trainers, note! This product is thus intended to project the key brand value – namely to surpass yourself.  Bracelet users can compare their results with those of others via social media. What we have here is marketing through service.

Brands are mistaken if they think that going 2.0 means having an attractive website and a software app and then just continuing to do their marketing in the traditional manner. Brands which have truly embraced the digital approach are digitising the core of their business so as to keep in step with their customers. Marketing and communication are longer limited to product packaging but are starting to drive the actual design of the products sold to customers and those products may well in turn change the customers’ view of what the brand is all about. Going back to the Nike example, you can no longer tell whether the company sells shoes or is a provider of personal services.

*Published by éditions fyp