It’s not easy being a marketer in the era of socialmedia. A hotel chain, for example, might spendmillions promoting a set of strong and consistentmarketing messages—only to find them underminedby a travel site like TripAdvisor. Or a high-endrestaurant accustomed to touting its stellar Zagatratings could be compromised by lukewarm reviewson restaurant opinion site Yelp.These new kinds of digital advisers and opinionaggregators, which compile independent andunfiltered reviews from users and consumers, operatebeyond marketers’ control and have significant powerto shape consumer opinion, behavior and spending.This is a new fight for consumer influence, andcompanies that do not have adequate battle plansare at risk of being seriously wounded.To do better, marketing executives and corporateleadership teams should work to understand allsources of influence on consumers and the impactthose sources have on buying behaviors. They shouldconsider their organization’s existing aptitude to exertinfluence through those sources and then decide onthe most appropriate tactical approaches to positivelyaffect their customers’ behaviors.
Consider the source
Companies need to understand the different waysthat the Internet and new media have changed howcustomers find and absorb information about theirorganization’s reputation and products. What’s mostcritical is for companies to take a comprehensiveapproach to understanding social media’s impact oncustomers—an approach that considers
majorsources of influence.The chart on the next page illustrates the new andenhanced sources of buyer influence that can swayconsumers. Companies should be aware of wherecustomers are currently getting their information,and determine the extent to which each source of influence motivates their customers to make apurchase or, on the other hand, how it might be ademotivator. What is the primary influencing factor?Are typical customers looking for trusted advice,credible expertise or broad consensus about qualityand reliability?
For each source of buyer influence noted in the chart,marketing departments should decide on the set of actions right for their company’s goals. Central to theeffort: an assessment of their organization’s capabilitiesto exert influence through different sources, includingsocial media.Four options—engage, redeploy, learn or monitor—shouldform the core of a marketer’s tactical playbook in thenew battle for consumer influence.
If a company’s analysis shows that a particularsource of influence is highly motivating to its customers,and if the company feels it has the capabilities to eitherdirectly advise consumers through this source oreffectively direct them toward it, then the companyshould press ahead with its efforts. For example, Disney’sadvertising for its 2009 animated film
touted themovie’s 98 percent “Fresh” score on online opinionaggregator RottenTomatoes.com in addition to moretraditional blurbs from professional film reviewers. Someindustry observers may have felt this was an unusualmarketing approach to take, but MGM’s marketing chief told the
Los Angeles Times
: “People want to know what
Point of View
October 2012, No. 1
Paul F. Nunes
is the executivedirector of research at theAccenture Institute for HighPerformance.firstname.lastname@example.org
Joshua B. Bellin
is a researchfellow with the AccentureInstitute for High Performance. email@example.com
Winning the new battle for consumer influence
By Paul F. Nunes and Joshua B. Bellin