With the proliferation of mobile devices and the rise of social media, we are entering a whole new “age of connectivity” than ever before, Kotler notes in his book Marketing 4.0.
Connectivity through mobile devices has enabled people to instantly access vast amounts of information and make better purchasing decisions by leveraging collective knowledge within the Internet. Customers share information, actively connect and create “customer communities” in many ways.
People connected by mobile devices use collective knowledge to make better choices
In Japan, kakaku.com, Tabe-log, Amazon reviews, blogger reviews, etc. would be considered collective knowledge.
Customers have always been driven not only by individual preferences but also by the desire for social synchronization, and today that social synchronization is becoming increasingly important. In such an environment, Kotler notes, most individual purchasing decisions are essentially “social” decisions.
The speed at which information is disseminated has diminished the information gap, and the relationship between buyers and sellers is becoming more equal as people gain the ability to communicate.
People move freely between online and offline, share their opinions with others, and accumulate a vast number of reviews. Information has become more symmetrical than before, and the information gap between companies and individuals is rapidly shrinking. In such an era, Kotler warns, “Brands should not regard their customers as mere targets,” as they once did.
Customers are not just targets, they are friends
The relationship between brands and customers should change and be regarded as a “companion” or “friend” of the brand. To this end, brands should honestly demonstrate their true nature and real value, and only by doing so can they become trustworthy brands.
According to a recent survey across a variety of industries, people trust the F-factor (Friends, Families, Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers) more than marketing communications from companies. Today, most customers seek advice from strangers on social networking sites and trust it over advertisements and expert opinions.
In other words, the key to a brand’s success is the ability to interact with customers on an “equal” footing, to lead them to recommendations (advocacy), and to build long-term engagement.