While we talked about the “voice of the customer” and the “customer is king” even before the Internet and social media became popular, the communication traveled from marketers to customers. It was like a cable modem, through which downloads could be executed at broadband speeds, while uploads were tiny narrow bands of sample data. However, communication has now all changed and unleashed the biggest worldwide chatterbox! The megaphones are now all in place, and we just need a little instigation. However, this is broadband in reverse. Communication from customers is no longer restricted. It may overwhelm our listening devices as well as our warehouses, and those of us who ignore it, may get trampled over by those who master it.

The spirit of Arpanet as it evolved through research institutes and universities was to preserve the independence and spirit of altruistic cooperation without commercialization. Internet amplified that spirit, and social media added a lot of voices to it. For the longest time, Facebook remained commercial free. The intent was once again to build an environment of altruistic collaboration. Yet, thanks to marketers and the pressure for public performance, commercialization is getting introduced. However, commercialization faces a large population of users who collaborated in altruistic ways in the past. Marketers can benefit from this crowdsourced participation as long as they follow the spirit.

As mobile platforms grew, marketers started using them for marketing. Although it has taken us a while to understand the real power of mobility, it is all about understanding consumers and their behaviors. It is probably the richest source of data, and is a gold mine for understanding the context and intent of our customers.

These major trends must be harvested using a marketing strategy that revolves around collaboration with customers. Customers are ready to work with marketers as long as marketers build trust and engage them in a productive dialogue that benefits the customers. These trends obviously support marketers, too, as they get to sell their products. However, these trends shift the balance of power to the customer and give them the ability to influence our products, our messaging, and our relationship with customers.

The power remains with the customers and the impartial review process. Amazon reviewers can tear apart a bad product, and if fake reviewers join in to incorrectly praise a product, they get punished along with the product. Yes, we can include celebrity endorsements, and for a fee, they may add a voice, which is no different from classic Marketing 101. However, a digitally connected society has its checks and balances to fairly evaluate a product. When savvy customers shop for products, they are dexterous at weighing paid celebrity endorsements against the voice of the masses.

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