"Flawsome" and the New Consumer Mindset
There was a time when the market was an advertiser's heaven. The available technology provided only one-way communication -- TV, radio and printed publications -- and the advertisers exploited this to the hilt. Audiences had no choice but to take it all in; they had no say in the matter and their role was simply to be convinced of their need then go out and buy the products.
Product quality was often determined by how effective the TV commercials, radio plugs and print ads were in conveying the message to the audience. Unless you have been living under a rock on a deserted tropical island during the last decade, you would have noticed that times have changed significantly since the golden days of mass media advertising.
The Internet, in particular, has evolved into a platform that lets people express themselves and share their views with others. This, as it turns out, was the big game-changer for marketing, as it empowered people to say exactly what they think and feel about a product or service. Almost immediately this innovation transformed marketing and placed control in the hands of the consumer.
Social media has further tipped the scale in favor of the consumer. Whether the brands like it or not, people will talk about what is good and what is not so good about products and services, and there is nothing brand owners can do about it. Social media, in fact, is the perfect antithesis to mass media advertising; now the consumer's voice dominates and the brands are the ones that need to adjust. Which brings us to what may be a key for marketers to harness social media.
During the age of mass media advertising, people were bombarded by ads for products that seemed perfect and flawless. And because the underlying communication platform flowed only in one direction, whoever originated the ad (the brand owner, of course) controlled the conversation. Even if buyers discovered flaws and defects in these products, there was no practical way to convey that information to others. It's different now.
People will let brands immediately know exactly what they think. More often than not, these opinions will find their way to others looking for information about the brands in question. Take the recent fiasco McDonald's experienced during a recent Twitter campaign. Originally designed for customers to share feel-good stories about their McDonald's experiences, the drapery of flawlessness and perfection was soon swept aside by disgruntled customers who instead insisted on describing horror stories about their experiences with the fastfood giant's poor products and horrendous customer service.
A market study published early this year reports that 68 percent of consumers trust a product review that shows both good and bad points of the product. If there are only good reviews, some consumers conclude that the reviews may be censored, or even faked. But surprisingly, negative comments are not necessarily a bad thing for brands.
Contrary to expectations, 67 percent of prospects converted into buyers when they were also able to read bad reviews about a product. It has become clear that people really do not believe that a product can ever be perfect, and products that insist on projecting the image of flawlessness are met with cynicism and disbelief. Consumers seem to value the honesty and openness more than they do the contrived illusion of perfection.
The trend monitoring site trendwatching.com just published an interesting brief that captures the essence of this development; they call it "flawsome". The brief defines this as "brands that are still brilliant and thriving despite having flaws," and fearlessly declares that "brands that behave more humanly, including showing their flaws, will be awesome".
Flawsome, then, sets the perfect stage for social media marketers to exploit this surprising counter culture. Social media provides the opportunities for the voice of the consumer to be heard and the mechanism for this to be shared with and spread out to others. Nicole Nelson, Managing Director of award-winning events marketing agency BENG!NY writes in her blog about four key action items social media marketers need to focus on to fuel the growth of flawsome.
- Crowdsource feedback and suggestions. This empowers your end-users, allows you to gather data on their preferences and lets you engage your target customers.
- Be transparent. Share reviews about your products and services, even if these are not positive.
- Embrace subjective feedback. Not everyone will like your products, but if you offer equal opportunity for people to express their dislikes, this can provide you with valuable market information, and maybe even convert these haters into customers. Just as bad publicity is still publicity, negative engagement is still engagement.
- Acknowledge what other people view as your problem, then build on this. Nelson cites the example of Domino's Pizza, which posted their bad reviews alongside good reviews in real time on the Times Square ticker for all to see. In this way the company can focus on addressing these negative issues.
Edwin Huertas has spent the last fifteen years growing his skills in the internet arena, from programming and website building to the latest iterations of web marketing. He's a self-confessed nerd with an undying passion for marketing, because it is a way to get attention for deserving products and services. He loves using his skills to help people get the attention and business success they ...
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