Engaging Influential Subcultures

Last week we looked the last Marketing Paradox at the paradox of negative vs positive advocacy Today we are going to introduce the next element of Marketing 4.0 that being influential subcultures.

When it comes to brand advocacy in the digital world, not all consumers are created equal. Some segments rely on their own personal preferences and what they hear from advertising; thus advocacy does not matter to them. Moreover, they do not share their experience with everyone else. Other segments have a greater tendency to ask for and give recommendations on brands. They are the ones who are more likely to be loyal brand advocates.

For increased probability of getting advocacy, marketers should place their bets on youth, women, and netizens (YWN). Many topics related to these three major segments have been researched and explored separately. In terms of size, each of these is a very lucrative segment. Thus, the marketing approach has been tailored specifically to cater to them. But here is the bigger picture. There is a common thread that connects them: YWN are the most influential segments in the digital era.

It is perhaps not surprising that most subcultures—groups that have sets of norms and beliefs outside of the mainstream culture—come predominantly from either youth, women, or netizens. They were, in many parts of the world, considered minorities and on the periphery of society. In the past, authority and power indeed belonged to seniors, men, and citizens. This was due to the traditionally higher level of income and purchasing power that seniors, men, and citizens have had. But over time, the importance and influence of YWN has increased significantly. In fact, the subcultures that YWN represent have begun to influence the mainstream culture. Their relatively larger networks of communities, friends, and family empower them to do this.

Youth, for example, set the trends for their seniors, especially when it comes to pop culture fields such as music, movies, sports, food, fashion, and technology. Seniors often do not have the time and agility to fully explore the fast-changing pop culture; they simply follow and rely on the recommendations of youth. Droga5 created The Great Schlep campaign to address this phenomenon. To secure a presidential victory in 2008, Barack Obama needed to win key swing states that had cost Democrats the 2000 and 2004 elections. Among the campaign’s challenges, resonance in Florida was hampered by false perceptions that elderly Jewish voters held regarding Obama and his campaign. To correct those misconceptions, Droga5 and the Jewish Council for Education and Research enlisted Sarah Silverman to launch The Great Schlep. A micro-targeted grassroots movement, The Great Schlep asked grandchildren of elderly Jews to convince their grandparents to reconsider their position on Obama. In the end, Obama won Florida by 170,000 votes (51% vs. 49%) and received the highest elderly Jewish vote in 30 years. Younger-generation consumers often become the first to try new products, thus often becoming the primary target market for marketers. When youth accept new products, those products usually reach the mainstream market successfully.

In many countries, the women in the household have traditionally acted as the chief financial officer of the family. In selecting which brand to buy in many product and service categories, women’s voices often trump men’s. This is because most women have the patience and interest to go through a comprehensive process of researching for the best choice, something that most men consider useless or even painful. Thus, women play a significant role in becoming the gatekeeper of any products and services that marketers offer to families. This is exacerbated further with the rise of Women in the workplace and in particular those who have broke the glass ceiling. For the definitive look at this, explore Bec Brideson’s landmark book xxx which delves into the $28 trillion female economy and outlays the definitive methodology and business transformation required to acquire and retain the new lucrative female consumer. Amongst many achievements, Bec was pivotal in the AFL’s burgeoning AFLW competition.

Netizens—or citizens of the internet—are also highly influential. As digital natives, they are very savvy in connecting with others online while sharing information. While not all their shared information is valuable and not all their activities are productive, they are clearly the epitome of smarter consumers. Representing what they see as a true model of boundaryless democracy, they freely express their opinions and feelings about brands, often anonymously. They create ratings, post comments, and even create content that other citizens pay attention to. They can either help sway political opinion. Most recently, widespread political and economic corruption at the highest levels of the South Korean society has led netizens to take part in peaceful but massive candlelight demonstrations advocating the need for fundamental change in the political and economic structures of South Korean society.

Because of their characteristics, YWN are not easy to impress. But when we impress them, they will be the most loyal advocates of our brands. Brand advocacy from quality segments such as YWN is more valuable than from others. Because YWN have a strong influence on the mainstream market, brands will reap huge benefits by engaging them.

CMO Perspective – Tami Cannizzaro: IBM

Even a company as ‘traditional’ as IBM have adopted a ‘influencer’ strategy. It’s not a one off event; it’s a strategy that will evolve over time. Ted Rubin has coined the phrase “Return on Relationship.” Social business is not about making a business transaction. It’s about building a network of relationships that will yield results over time. You’ll get as much out of the program as you put into it.

My social media team monitors social channels and measures those influencers with the most “signal” in our industry. Tools like oneQube can help you navigate, measure, and manage social relationships. We wanted to field a group of influencers who were prolific at generating content and who also had a very engaged following.

The hard part is that you have to depend on good faith that the investment will yield. If you have a CEO focused on ROI, it may not be immediately evident how it is returning to the business. Nurtured over time, these relationships help you to build traction in the market and drive momentum for your brand. The pitfall is that it takes faith – and a lot of times, that isn’t enough to garner support for the program in the first place!

The biggest surprise for me was the scale and reach of the influencers we engaged. I was a bit skeptical that we could move the needle but in reality the influencers blew away traditional PR. The biggest surprise was the powerful group of individuals could truly move the needle for a major brand. The technique of finding influencers and using them to drive hype is not a new idea. The movie industry was the first to use ‘nodes’ to launch a good buzz around a new movie. It’s a powerful way to drive word of mouth across a set of consumers.

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