Research by Cap
Gemini Ernst and Young
in October 2003 found that 17% of car
buyers were influenced by TV ads, whilst 71% were influenced by word
of mouth. And a Nokia Monitor research project in 2004 found that 49%
of mobile buyers were influenced by word of mouth, whilst crucially
the decision-making has reduced from 6 weeks to 6 days.

And as Tomi Ahonen
likes to say,
In a connected world sharing information is

The increasing penetration of the internet,
coupled with increasingly cheap bandwidth, has become our means to
search for more credible, more authorative sources of information.

Consumers have learnt to be more discerning and lest trusting. We
actively seek sources of information we trust. That’s why, 27%
of Americans now read blogs and 77% of Americans seek their primary
news today online

The aggregated result, a growing disconnect
between the way consumers want to be communicated to and the way
organisations communicate with them.

This is further supported by numerous reports and surveys
(Yankelovich, Chartered
Institute of Marketing
, Deutsche
). Glen Urban,
Professor at the Sloan School of
Management, MIT

Evidence is building that the paradigm of
marketing is changing from the push strategies so well suited to the
last 50 years of mass media to trust-based strategies
that are essential in a time of information empowerment.

The internet in many ways is not so much a technology as
social phenomenon.

For example, the rise of community rating sites such as Epinions,
where you can get marks out of ten from well-being medicines to the
latest movies, or the creation of ‘folksonomies
such as, with its social
tags system, or,
a community site for those travelling the world, with, as the site
says, “174,238+ unbiased hotel reviews, travel journals, photos and
itineraries.” For unbiased read; co-created, unfiltered, authentic,
more credible.

And like World
of Warcraft
, or Desert
Multiplayer Online Role Player Games
), all these sites have
connectivity of one-to-one and many-to-many. They are constantly
updated or modified with new content, have built an interested and
passionate community and are also successful commercial models.

The social phenomenon of the internet goes further, for example it
extends into blogging, that last year toppled leading media icons
like CBS anchorman Dan
or Jason
, Chief News Director of CNN, who was forced to resign over
remarks he had made at Davos by
Rony Abovitz,
a blogger and that nearly brought the bicycle lock manufacturer
Kryptonite to its knees.

Blogging showcases how enlightened companies have embraced the
social phenomenon of the Internet.

Lutz Vice Chairman at GM blogs
on the GM
Fast Lane Blog
, Jonathan
Schwartz COO of Sun Microsystems
and himself a blogger, believes
that the 1000 bloggers at Sun have done more for his company than a
billion ad campaign ever could.

Oliver’s School Dinners
, is a more homegrown example, of one
man’s passionate belief that we should stop feeding our kids junk
food in schools, which translated into the social phenomenon of a
community of interest forming around an issue that cared passionately
about what we feed our kids in school. Jamie’s
School Dinners
motivated people to respond in a number of ways;
230,000 signatures delivered in a petition to 10
Downing Street
and the creation of worldwide online forums, via
Jamie’s blogsite and an
ongoing debate globally about what we feed our kids.

In the corporate world the Boeing
Design Team
with 120,000 members is another example of how a
corporation has harnessed the collective intellect of many people who
are seriously interested in aircraft and aviation. These people are
spread across the globe and are constantly in touch with Boeing
sharing and discussing information about the future development of
Boeing aircrafts. The maxim that “nobody is as clever as
,” is never truer than here.

Habbo Hotel is
the preferred virtual playground for teenagers from Finland to UK to
Japan, spending on average 40 minutes per session at this internet
based gaming world, where payments are made by mobile phone. Over the
past two years in the UK alone Habbo Hotel has acquired over a
million gamers.

And we see it in mobile phone based smart
, which brought down the government of Joseph
Estrada of the Philippines
in a peaceful
mass demonstration of literally over a million participants
in a
smart mob.

co-founder of the Big
Blog Company
says that the Internet is not a channel, it is
what’s causing the other channels to leak and bleed ‘content’.
This will become more profound as the internet increasingly converges
with the mobile device. It is a valuable insight.

For companies the threat is this:
internet combined with broadband essentially changes everything.

It changes the way customers can access information and changes the
way they use it. It changes the way business can communicate with
their customers and it also changes how a business might go to
market. It changes the linking between channels, that link
businesses, customers, suppliers and employees. It offers opportunity
and it offers your once helpless competitors the chance to radically
rethink their business strategies and attack vital parts of your
business model.

Anthony Hopwood
of the Said
Business School in Oxford
believes that there has been a
fundamental structural change in the way we consume information and
content. This is supported by Merrill
, author of a Carnegie
Corporation of New York
report on media consumption.

On the news media Merrill says, “The future course of
news is being altered by technology-savvy young people no longer
wedded to traditional news outlets or even accessing news in
traditional ways.

Murdoch speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in
April 2005
reinforced the point,

What is happening right before us is,
in short, a revolution
in the way young people are accessing
news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their
up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a God-like
figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the
religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news
presented as gospel.

Murdoch states that where four out of every five Americans in 1964
read a paper every day, today, only half do. For younger readers the
figures are even worse.

So what happened to 18-24 year
olds usage of traditional media like TV and newspapers?
answer is they are early adopters of new media. New media includes:

  • the internet

  • picture phones

  • instant messaging

  • blogging

  • cell phones

  • MP3 players

  • satellite radio

  • text messaging

  • TiVo/Replay

  • broadband TV and web radio.

But its not only the news industry that is feeling the
pre-tremors of the volcanic eruption that technology is about to
unleash, as Lord
described it in a Royal Television Society Fleming
Memorial Lecture in 2004. He believes that over the next 10 years
audiences will move away from the linear, scheduled world where
relatively limited number of distributors who push their content at
the viewer…. “we will instead enter a world where content is
increasingly delivered through internet-protocol-based networks that
are non-linear, on-demand and entirely self-scheduled. In that world,
the viewer – not the broadcaster – will decide what is consumed
and how.

BT’s announcement in July 2005 that it is to launch
in conjunction with Microsoft demonstrates exactly what
Lord Currie means as technology goes up though the gears.

IPTV aggregates and amplifies this fundamental change in how we,
collect, edit and consume information or content and share it with
our friends.

Howard Rheinegold author
of the book Smart
believes that the mobile phone amplifies peoples talents for

The internet amplifies human interaction.

That is why MTV have recently launched 2 broadband channels whilst
AOL has created a partnered multimedia production company that will
accelerate its live entertainment events online, as well as for TV,
cell phones and other media platforms.

The internet + broadband has put the “me” into media, and Jeff
at Buzzmachine
describes traditional mass media channels as cold media, whereas,
community sites like wikipedia, blogs, commercial online enterprises
like ebay, Amazon etc., are what he describes are hot media.

Vital, emergent, with two way flows of communication, the
connection of many-to-many – social media.

To put this in
context, last July’s tragic bombings in London demonstrated how far
we have come in how we collect, share, create, and disseminate
information. Newsweek (July 9,2005) describes the most dramatic
example of this,

The biggest story on Thursday was Wikipedia,
the online encyclopedia that Internet users around the world freely
add to and edit. Yesterday’s
entry on the London bombings
was amended, edited and updated by
hundreds of readers no fewer than 2,800 times throughout the day.

entry has photographs
, detailed timelines, contact numbers, a
complete translated statement by the jihadist group claiming
responsibility for the attacks and links to other Wikipedia entries.

The first video pictures broadcast from CNN came from a citizen
journalist, as did many images broadcast by the BBC.

The BBC is no slouch these days has understood the implications
for its organization. And has for example taken a “pioneering
new approach to public access rights in digital age.
” For
example The
Creative Archive Project
. The project will allow British
residents to download clips of BBC factual programmes from
for non-commercial use, keep them on their PCs, manipulate and share
them, thereby making the BBC archives more accessible to licence-fee
payers. In the next, pilot phase of the project the Creative
will make 100 hours of BBC content available.

see how connected communities are generating a paradigm shift in how
businesses can connect and co-create value with their audiences, we
look to Korea and the online newspaper, OhMyNews.
OhMyNews is the third largest newspaper in Korea, but the important
part is that it has 26,000 citizen reporters that contribute to the
newspaper. Get your story published and you receive $20 USD and your
name in print.


Founder and Editor Oh
said in an interview with Wired Magazine “With
OhmyNews, we wanted to say goodbye to 20th-century journalism where
people only saw things through the eyes of the mainstream,
conservative media. Our main concept is every citizen can be a
reporter. We put everything out there and people judge the truth for

The Guardian
(who has its own blog) has described it as the world’s most
domestically powerful news site and, a South Korean diplomat was
quoted as saying that no policy maker can now ignore OhMyNews.

Social Search
and Skype in
telecoms, music file sharing, Wikipedia and OhMyNews all show how
enabling or capturing peer-to-peer information flows can transform
business models. Companies need to understand that today value lies
with the consumer not the other way round.

And Simon London writing for the Financial Times
Monday 27th June 2005, said,

In business as in art, we live in a postmodern
era. Old certainties are being demolished and relationships
redefined. Everything you thought about business has been upended.
The relationship between companies and customers is no exception. The
old notion that producers produce and consumers consume is regarded
passé by management theorists.

its cover story entitled the Power of Us, of June 20, Business Week

said that community power is the biggest change to business companies
have faced since the Industrial Age. In context, that means bigger
than the telephone, TV, credit cards, the PC and the internet. The
Economist, in its cover story Crowned at Last
, on April 2 2005 ,
said, “Many firms do not yet seem aware of the revolutionary
implications of newly empowered consumers. Only those firms ready and
able to serve these new customers will survive.

Peer-to-peer communication is the life force of
– the rapid emergence and convergence of the
mobile phone and the internet means that we suddenly have access to
our peers, our friends, our colleagues and family members. And like
search that is changing peoples habits and attitudes. We are getting
used to living in a connected age where we naturally draw on our
participation in various networks for assistance information and

The problem for businesses and marketers is that traditional
marketing has become in the eyes of everyday people, adversarial.

Customers have changed and adapted to this new
always on, always connected, media fragmented world, they seek value
by searching, they are not waiting for you to interrupt them with
unwanted messaging, they look to their peers for voices of authority.

They are in effect doing it for themselves.

Shoshana Zuboff, in her book “The
support economy
” Penguin 2002, said,
In today’s
market, supporting end consumers is not an occasional event, but a
necessary condition of being in business.

Some companies are responding to consumer power by pushing harder
down more channels using traditional marketing methods.

But you can no longer take one way broadcast or a monopoly
approach into a consumer empowered world. Because the internet and
increasingly the mobile phone has fundamentally changed this.

credit: Aleksandar

The harsh reality for all businesses today is
that they need to change they way they think about marketing and
marketing communication strategies.

And the notion of mass media is fast becoming an oxymoron.

The current language and behaviour of our post-modern culture is
one of:

  • Flexibility

  • Fluidity

  • Portability

  • Permeability

  • Transparency

  • Interactivity

  • Immediacy

  • Peer-to-peer networks and flows of
    communication between them.

So what are the implications for companies as a
consequence of these developments?

Companies need to ask:

  • Are our products
    and services the very best they can be?

  • How can we support
    our 21st Century consumers in a real and credible way?

  • Can we facilitate
    positive co-creation?

  • Does our current
    operational structure allow us to support this?

  • Are we engaging
    our audience or are we overly transmitting to them?

  • Can we deliver a
    genuine valuable experience across multiple platforms?

  • Do we have the metrics
    to support such initiatives?

  • How can we align
    everything we do to deliver enhanced customer advocacy?

  • Can we become a
    dynamic engaging brand that is true to ourselves and true to our

  • Can we continue to accept mediocrity?

Jeff Jarvis
writing on his blog
, posted in late 2005 “ Who
owns the wisdom of the crowd?
” in which he said,

…there’s one more fundamental notion that
informs this new society, a notion that big companies and
institutions invariably forget because they were built in the old

This is no longer a centralized world, a world
controlled by those institutions.

This is a decentralized world, a world controlled by

And if you try to take control away from us, you will

It used to be that you could take control away from
us and we had nowhere to go. But in this post-scarcity world, we can
always go somewhere else for content or information or service.

There’s always another news story, always another
email service, always another search engine.

Thus my first law, once again: Give us
control and we will use it. Don’t and you will lose us.

All marketing interaction should deliver an experience
that actively and positively links customers
, media and
brand in relevant and meaningful ways. Brand experience replaces
broadcasting in its broadest sense.

Successful brands today are:

  • Life Enabling

  • Life Simplifying

  • Navigational.

Set those as your guiding principles.

And finally a word from Glen
L. Urban
who writes:
As customer power grows,
innovative companies are moving beyond traditional push marketing and
customer relationship management to become full proponents of the
customer agenda.

(source: Glen L. Urban.
Emerging Era of Customer Advocacy
. 2004)

Amen to that.

About the author:
is the CEO of SMLXL
a next-generation creative marketing company, focused on enabling
businesses and brands to engage with their audiences and succeed in
the 21st Century.