By Adrian Johansen
The ultimate goal of marketing may be to grow businesses and increase the profit margin, but the fundamental focus of marketing is and should always be the consumer. This means that the effective marketer is tasked with far more than just effectively promoting a product or service.
Rather, the effective marketer is one who always has their finger on the pulse of social change. They understand not only who the target audience is, but also how it has evolved from the past and what trajectory it is on for the future.
This means you need to understand the nexus between effective marketing and social change. You can leverage this in-depth understanding of evolving social dynamics to enhance your marketing efforts.
Marketing as a Mirror of Society
No matter your industry or your product or service, marketing is a people-first endeavor. As such, it is also an endeavor that both reflects and is shaped by the social context in which it occurs.
The power of the market is in the consumer’s hands. If your marketing platforms do not align with the expectations, needs, and values of your target market, you’re never going to be effective in engaging that audience. Such alignment requires marketers to thoroughly understand who their audience is, what they want, and what their life experience is.
Now, more than ever, this means that your marketing strategies must center on inclusivity if they are to truly hold a mirror up to society. If your campaigns don’t look like your audience in this increasingly diverse world or don’t serve their needs or interests, then you’re almost certainly going to lose them. Someone else will serve their needs and interests, and your target audience will find what they’re seeking from your competitors instead.
The failure to represent historically marginalized or disenfranchised groups may well telegraph a brand message that you never want to communicate: that you either don’t understand or don’t care about the needs of these communities.
For this reason, it’s also important to diversify the team creating your marketing materials. Incorporating people of different races and ethnicities, seniors, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community into your team means that you will benefit from an array of perspectives and life experiences that will authentically inform and enhance your marketing strategies.
Leveraging Reviews and Referrals
Now more than ever, customers have the power to direct marketing initiatives, principally through the use of referrals and online reviews. Referral programs can be highly beneficial, as they’re a cost-effective and productive way to generate new business.
However, from a marketing perspective, referral programs do even more than increase brand awareness and drive customer acquisition. They can also be a useful index of the customer’s experience. An anemic response to the referral program, for instance, may well mean a deficiency somewhere in the customer experience, whether in marketing and promotions, product development and service delivery, or customer service. It’s highly unlikely that your customers are going to participate in the referral program if they’re not enthusiastic about their experience.
The referral program, though, is only one prong of a truly customer-driven marketing strategy. The other involves the use of customer reviews to tailor one’s strategy to the needs and interests of the target audience.
The reality is that online reviews play an increasingly important role in customer acquisition and retention, which means that soliciting customer reviews should be a paramount concern for virtually all marketers. This means actively asking for and responding to reviews, even when they aren’t positive. Customers need to feel that their input is heard, valued, and utilized to provide a better experience.
The Impact of Conscious Consumerism
In the era of conscious consumerism, a “better experience” is often predicated not just on the quality of the product or service but also on how well the business aligns with the customer’s moral values. Customers may shy away from your business — even if they like your products and services — if your organization’s values conflict with their own.
This is why brand activism is gaining importance as a key driver of marketing strategy. The cultivation of an activist brand identity reflects market evolutions in which social change isn’t just reshaping the market; it’s a central concern. Grassroots movements, for instance, are increasingly being integrated into marketing campaigns, allowing businesses to become involved in social reform initiatives from the ground up.
Marketing has always been a reflection of the society in which it takes place. In this era of rampant social change, however, it is more important than ever before for marketing strategies to keep pace with these dynamic times. This means embracing inclusivity not only in your campaigns but also in your teams. Such inclusivity provides the diversity of perspectives and experiences so essential in reflecting the needs, goals, and values of a heterogeneous target audience. Leveraging the power of referral programs and customer reviews is also a potent strategy for understanding social change and using this understanding to enhance your marketing efforts.