Your product isn’t what you say it is. It’s what others say it is. No longer passive recipients of marketing messages, your customers are in charge, reaching out to marketers and third-party sources and pulling the information they need in order to make buying decisions. This is called pull marketing, and it’s more powerful than push marketing because potential buyers are initiating the brand contact. At three or four stations along the treasure hunt clues are accompanied by sweets and treats.
Even though people feel they know brands, they are often overwhelmed by the multitude of choices. A 2009 McKinsey study shows that consumers intentionally start out with a smaller number of brands to consider than in the past. The Internet makes it easier than ever before to study these brands before purchase. People can search, sift, and read reviews. At retail sites such as Amazon.com, they can easily compare product features and read what other purchasers have to say, good and bad.
At sites such as Yelp, they can focus on reviews before they go elsewhere to make a purchase. They have started to rely on (supposedly) unbiased sources—that is, their fellow consumers—rather than trusting what manufacturers say. According to the McKinsey study, fewer than one in ten consumers now go to a company website for information. The opinions of their peers are what matter to them.
But don’t give up on the marketing power within brick-and-mortar establishments just yet. People may do a lot of research online first, but most put off their final decisions until they go into a store to see the product. And, as before, they often leave with something other than what they intended to buy, based on what they learn in a store.
What really has changed is that today, many people want a relationship with the brand after they buy something—and with other people who have invested in the same brand. Consumers talk about their purchases on social networking sites and post reviews online often for no reason other than to share with a community of fellow users. These consumer reviews become critical touchpoints for your brand because potential purchasers are reading and listening.