Wait a Minute! Who's Driving the Bus?

When working with clients throughout the years I have noticed that some place customer feedback at the center of their decision making while others listen, but ultimately think the customers do not know what they want and need to be marketed to by experts. Even though I have seen instances where each of these approaches has been correct, recently I am noticing somewhat of a shift across various industries with more companies relying on customer driven feedback. One key reason for this is the rise and adoption of social media which allows consumers to instantly connect with brands and provide feedback. Capitalizing on this, many brands have created social sharing “spaces” where the customers can interact with marketers to help create or improve products and services. In some cases these interactions have been initiated by the customers and have grown organically.

As this trend continues to develop and new technology is introduced it seems that it would be hard to keep the expert-centric approach intact. There is so much rich customer-generated content and insight that companies can access for brand development from the increasing number of websites and applications – from the brand’s own Facebook, Pinterest, and websites to those created by consumers. The idea of having consumers tell companies where they see the brand and where they give it permission to go is not a new one. It’s been used by customer-centric brands for decades. But what seems new is that some companies are now allowing the customer to co-create with their marketers and to “make” the brand.

Will this result in more customer research? I would think so. But I also think it might result in changing how we do research. For example, analyzing and obtaining insight on how customers interact with a brand on social media is quite different than asking and tracking their opinions about and their satisfaction with a brand.