Human civilization has seen many ages. Each age was named after the material that was used the most during that time period. First was the Stone Age. The Bronze Age was next, followed by the Iron Age, and so on. With industrialization came the Age of Steel.
I am tempted to ask myself, “So which age am I living now?” If I had been in any other industry I would have had to break my head with a problem of plenty. Being a die-hard member of the marketing and communications clan, I can’t resist but to name the current age the Age of Dialog. More specifically, the Age of Consumer Dialog.
So why is it the age of dialog? Is it because there is so much dialog around? I wish I could say that. But I am calling it the age of dialog for two reasons: the options for dialog have grown manifold and the importance of dialog with the consumer has suddenly increased more than ever.
It is easy to say that the channels for dialog have grown with the growth of interactive media. But why has the importance of consumer dialog increased? I have to say that it is because brand owners have not seized the opportunity to interact with consumer in spite of the growth of the dialog options. Though there are exceptions, the majority of brand owners have yet to get it right. Many brand owners have not started creating and leveraging the channels of dialog. And most of those who have did it for the “feel good” effect and left the dialog hanging. The proof is with each one of us. As consumers we each have had our own experiences, from desperately looking for options to share something with the brand to emails that never got a response, and many more.
So instead of being in dialog with brand owners, consumers are using the plethora of options available today to be in conversations amongst themselves. Call thempeer-to-peer conversations. These conversations are taking many forms including blogs, consumer complaint portals, anti-brand communities, and sharing of experiences through social media. It is real socialism out there and this socialism has already grown to alarming proportions. Is the marketer hearing?Maybe, maybe not.
How do you stop consumers talking amongst themselves? The answer is logical and simple. First, hear with your ears wide open. Second, talk back with your ears still open. But how many ears? That is a challenge the marketer has to live with. The more popular the brand, the more ears needed.
Marketing evolved from pushing what was created to producing what the consumer wants. Today, it is no longer just producing what the consumer wants but co-creation of brands and the brand experience in conjunction with the consumer. For co-creation to happen it is important to hear the voice of the consumer. Not just that—engage the consumer in a dialog.
So will the marketing fraternity wake up? Being a smarter race, I hope it does soon. One thing I am sure of: in a world of fancy designations, there could be an interesting addition—Chief Dialog Officer. So if it’s time for the CMO to fade out let us get ready to welcome the new CDO.