By Chris Alexander
One ordinary day, I was sitting in the boardroom where I work, and our new president asked the marketing team a very simple question: “what is the future of marketing?” My mind started to race across social media and the changing digital landscape, and this opportunity to imagine the future immediately started to burn into my psyche.
While still in the meeting, we started reviewing the history of marketing. That is, in the 1950s and 1960s, marketing was product-centric. From the 1970s to the 1990s, it was more consumer-oriented. In the 2000s, it moved towards being more values-driven. Where I work, we challenge ourselves everyday to think about the mind, body and spirit of the consumer, and how her life (moms buy our products the most) fits into our brand. So, several days then went by after this meeting, and the answer continued to haunt me, until…
The iPad. Last Christmas, one of my gifts was an iPad, my first Apple product since the 1980s. I felt like this product had been invented for me, as I previously had a netbook and it made my head spin (how could someone make it so difficult to connect to the web from a cell-based computer anyway?). At first, I was skeptical of every iPad app, with questions like: why would I pay money for something that is not tangible? However, within a week, my purchase decision-making had changed forever, and I started to evolve. I thought to myself, “we, as consumers, have evolved more in the past year than we’ve ever evolved at any point in time before.” The marketer inside of me started to ask how this type of change is now affecting moms.
“Mom” has gone through this evolution as well, arguably much faster than I have. This Internet-savvy consumer scours food blogs, searches for recipes and connects online with friends and family more than the average person. She has a sense of entitlement, sense of empowerment, and soon she could reach self-actualization. Mom has transformed from a mass-marketing target to a potential brand ambassador as she communicates quickly with her peers and with experts. She’s connected to all the other moms and they collectively decide what products are worthy of their ‘buzz.’
Peer Reviews and Virtual Reality
The only thing today that is stopping consumers from simple five-star ratings and peer reviews is simply infrastructure. How long will it be before every single product is logged into one vehicle, where consumers can instantly see what the best peer rating is? How long before they take the power from the marketers with the biggest budget or the brightest minds and hand it to their peers?
Enter Siri, the iPhone’s personal virtual assistant. Fast-forward into the future, a time when mom is working late, so she says to Siri (who now has a real-sounding voice): “Siri – I’m running late again from work and my family is going to be starving.” Siri responds, “I’m proud of you and your hard work. I just looked up quick meal solutions, and I recommend cajun chicken pasta. Use Perdue Short Cuts chicken with four-and-a-half stars, great peer comments, and a 2011 ChefsBest award. You have the spices and pasta at the house and the Perdue chicken can be at the drive-thru at Wegmans awaiting your arrival in one hour.” While in the car and within a minute, she and her virtual assistant have just saved the day. Another successful, empowered-mom moment.
According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study, consumers have already doubled their sources of information before making a purchase, from five in 2010, to ten in 2011. The empowered-mom revolution has arrived.
Chris Alexander is a senior marketing manager in the food industry. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.