I can vaguely remember the days when mobile phones were the size of your head and when you believed everything that television and newspaper adverts told you. Like George Orwell’s 1984 (that I’m reading for the first time), there was no questioning what these giant, faceless organisations said.
BLAM! That’s when the internet happened. I don’t remember when, or how, but the World Wide Web changed how brands interact with their audience. It was no longer an endless monologue of superlative adjectives, or exaggerated, hyperbolical expressions of self-praise. We (the consumer) now had a voice! If I don’t like a brand’s crummy service or malfunctioning toaster I can video record my displeasure, tweet it, Facebook it, Google plus it, Instagram it, or blog it. The list is endless. This now meant that customers were to be heard and seen, rather than ignored by massive corporations. A conversation between brands and their customers was developing, there was room for feedback, there was room for brands to listen to their customers and cater to what they wanted.
While study groups and surveys were always used by brands to gauge product effectiveness, they now receive live real-time feedback on everything they do. While it’s dangerous territory for some companies, as every movement or idea is scrutinised, it’s also a massive advantage as they can move quickly and respond to consumer needs in an instant.
This shift has changed advertising and consumption, as we know it. They respond quicker, respond better, are polite, and in several cases go above and beyond to please disgruntled consumers. It’s almost the perfect set up. However, we’re now in danger of being lost amongst a sea of voices, each of us with higher expectations than ever before.
It can be argued that we now have seemingly unparalleled access to brands, and can interact with them in new ways; but there is still one major caveat. The chances of little old me being heard by a big brand feels akin to winning the lottery. It’s almost as if now that everybody is heard, nobody is heard! Thus, I’m left asking two questions: has anything changed in regards to our relationships with brands? And do we actually have any power? I’m not sure if I want to know the answer.
Miles Byrd – @ByrdSuperb