The world of marketing has arguably changed more in the last few years than it has in the previous 50 years – and it is technology that is driving it. Until recently, nearly all marketing was intrusive. Whether it was something one read in a magazine or newspaper, viewed on TV or saw while passing a billboard in the street, It would seek the attention of potential customers whether they had any interest in it or not, with no interactive element.
However, the use of new technology in areas like mobile and the internet has created a new world of possibilities. With instant communication and social media now an everyday part of life, it has become possible for brands to connect with customers in new ways. This has various manifestations. One of them is non-intrusive content marketing, which is embedded in content that individuals can choose to read because it covers a subject that interests them. Another is the use of social media to enable two-way communication, games and peer-to-peer advocacy to take centre stage.
For big brands, this means making sure they have a significant presence in these areas, perhaps with activities that step a long way outside their core function. In days of yore, that involved nothing more than being associated with products in other areas, such as sports via sponsorship. However, many brands have taken this to a new level in recent years. Thus Red Bull has diversified, with what is at core an energy drinks maker having a presence across the realm of leisure and adventure, from Formula One to daredevils skydiving to Earth from the edge of space.
For big hotel brands, this approach has lots of potential, but it is important to understand the purpose of customer-centric marketing. Intrusive marketing was based on a bit of research and a lot of guesswork about how consumers would respond to the words and images they were confronted with. A customer-centric approach can offer a much better picture by establishing just what it is that customers like, dislike and want to see more or less of. In the case of hotels, that can go a long way towards enabling brands to understand their markets, how tastes are changing and how new demographics – such as a shift from a market dominated by baby boomers to one focused on millennials – will affect their priorities. Quite simply, customer-centric marketing is not about brands persuading people to buy their goods and services. Instead, it is as much about learning as advocacy.