Is today’s consumer really in control? As far as conventional advertising industry wisdom is concerned, every generation of consumer grows smarter, shrewder, and more immune to marketing. Today it’s fashionable to proclaim that advertising and marketing no longer work; that trust in brands is eroding as consumers turn to their peers for everything from purchasing recommendations to the latest news.
All of this would be fine and good, if it were true. But according to our findings, consumers are actually more receptive and actively engaged with brands than ever before. According to our study, nearly 40% of consumers report having “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace and 26% have followed a brand on Twitter. Advertising isn’t failing—it’s adapting.
Beyond just social media, consumers are deeply engaged with brands across the entire digital channel—and it’s by choice. According to our study, 77% have watched a commercial or video advertisement on YouTube with some frequency; 69% have read a corporate blog post with some frequency; 73% have posted a product or brand review on a web site like Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter; and 52% have blogged about a brand’s product or service.
Consumers clearly don’t believe that digital is a one-way medium, either. A surprising 69% of them have provided feedback to a brand, either through its web site or a third-party service like GetSatisfaction.com. Clearly these interactions are more than casual encounters with a brand—they’re uniquely digital. It’s not like you can “friend” a billboard or have a conversation with a television spot, after all. No, our findings point to digital enabling the behavior of a deeply engaged consumer whose actions more closely resemble those of a “fan.”
The Language of Love for Brands? Deals.
Clearly consumers are doing more with brands today than simply “receiving messages.” Many social pundits would say that this is a new form of “dialogue” with brands. But if that’s so, the subject of that “dialogue” surprises. Based on our research, it’s not so much about some type of “shared passion” for a brand’s values. Largely, it’s about deals—pure and simple.
Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, 44% say access to exclusive deals is the main reason. This is also true for those who “friended” a brand on Facebook or MySpace, where 37% cite access to exclusive deals or offers as their main reason.
In hindsight, this makes perfect sense. Dell has earned kudos from social media mavens for generating $3 million in sales from its Dell Outlet through Twitter. Starbucks has soared to the top of Facebook brand pages, with nearly 4 million friends, by offering fans coupons for free pastries and ice cream. And Whole Foods tops Twitter with 1.5 million followers by broadcasting weekly specials and shopping tips.