Marketing is in the midst of a seismic shift in power, and businesses must be versatile about how they engage prospective customers in order to remain current.

A successful marketing campaign is no longer about the quick sale. It must build brand awareness and inspire confidence, developing a long-term strategy for attracting and converting customers. With the economy tight and buying habits changing, people are more resistant to the spurious purchase. Instead, buyers are researching brands and companies. In order to find the best value for their money, they are taking the time to make informed decisions about where and with whom they shop.

So what does this mean for your company, and how has this happened?

Marketing trends

In order to best understand modern marketing trends, we must first appreciate how marketing has evolved this way. Trends are cyclical, and understanding how marketing has worked in the past better informs us about how to maximise on its current incarnation.

Pre-eighteenth century, marketing was a rudimentary concept. Communication, advertising and transportation did not exist as we know it today, limiting business ventures to specific locales. Individual villages and populations were serviced by small, family-run businesses and traditional enterprises. Power therefore lay exclusively with the select men and women able to provide these services.

Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

The Industrial Revolution changed the face of British industry; it is unsurprising that this affected the distribution of business power. The invention of mills and factories led to multi-person mechanised production and transport. Despite these factories still drawing largely from local populations for their workforce, power transferred from skilled individuals to the business owners with capital who employed them.

Business power is always transferring. MD2MD recently arranged for futurologist David Smith to speak at one of their Managing Director Peer Groups, offering valuable insights and predictions to MD2MD members concerning the future distribution of business power.

First half of the twentieth century

The first half of the twentieth century saw the explosion of mass manufacturing. The most successful businesses, like Ford and Nuffield, were those who distributed nationally and internationally. Global advances in distribution and transportation meant that efficient producers could reach consumer bases on a scale never seen before. While this was clearly beneficial, it also meant that they needed to communicate their products to these consumers, in order to maximise their outreach.

Power remained with the most efficient producers, but this was about to change.

Second half of the twentieth century

Mass marketing was born out of necessity, by businesses seeking to promote their brand over their competitors. Power shifted to the effective marketers, those who could understand, reach and persuade a consumer to invest in a company.

Continuing advances in technology complemented this movement. The phenomenon of television and radio enabled marketing companies to reach consumers in the privacy of their own homes. As household technologies sped up home chores, affording homeowners more leisure time, they flocked to their televisions, validating the reach and potential influence of broadcast media.

Advertising became a valuable commodity to the consumer as the only economic means of finding out about products and services.

What’s happened now?

From means of communication to shopping and health, the Internet has transformed the way we live our lives, and the marketing industry is no exception.

The Web has led to the increasing availability of information. Never more than a search engine away, even the most obscure information has become abundant. In a strange inversion of the last century, it is time over information that consumers now value as a commodity. Companies like Google have capitalised on this, growing fat and sleek on algorithms that narrow down search results to present the consumer with only the most relevant results.

But the ease by which someone can market their company online has led to saturation. No longer a privilege of the powerful, anyone with a strong marketing team can promote and drive their reach to consumers. Even streamlined by Google, an individual searching for a product or service will find themselves inundated with results. Who the consumer then chooses to invest with is up to them.

The power is in their hands.

Trust and transparency

In a recent MD2MD networking session, leading UK sales and marketing expert Grant Leboff said “Ask not what your marketing can do for you; ask what it can do for your customer.” Your marketing must offer value to your customers, or they will disregard you in favour of your competition.

It is no longer enough to simply promote your products. In order to be taken seriously by consumers you must market your values, your brand, the heart and soul of your company. This personal expression is what makes your company stand out from the one above it in the search engine. Only by honestly marketing your values and the value of your products will potential customers see you as a worthwhile and trusted investment.

The Cluetrain Manifesto suggests that we are in the midst of a business revolution that will quickly dispose of traditional management and marketing models. You can read MD2MD’s summary and responses here.

The modern marketing campaign must therefore convey a sense of transparency to persuade the potential customer to invest in their brand. So what are you doing to capitalise on trend and remain top of the power chain?