Or do they both hang together? My ClickZ article this morning, entitled "The Third Moment of Truth" and triggered by P&G CEO A.G. Lafley's much-discussed "Let Go" speech at the recent ANA annual convention, suggests that there's a fundamental, if not urgent, building block brands and businesses first need to put in place -- or upgrade significantly -- before we just "let go": our brand listening infrastructure. If you carefully analyze brand feedback interfaces (contact us, feedback forms, "talk to me" buttons") across the top several hundred brands, you'll start to wonder whether the mantra of "the consumer's in control" holds sway. My column notes:
If we're to have any hope of managing or influencing the boss, we must reengineer the way we think about existing listening pipes, whether we call it "contact us," customer service, the call center, online chat, or even the "tell me what you think" button. Marketers consistently give this short shrift or punt it over to the attention-reduction operations department, almost as though consumer empowerment begins and ends with a marketing campaign. We should start to think about consumer affairs as new centerpiece of marketing.
A Third Moment of Truth? Perhaps, I suggest, we need a "third moment of truth" (building on Lafley's 'two moments of truth' contruct) that puts unique weighting on the new CGM-fortified and brand catalyzed "urge to express" moment. Importantly, we need to drive organizational harmony in how we listen to consumers who talk directly to us and how we manage "expression" campaigns externally (which are now growing exponentially...in case anyone noticed). Unilever's Dove brand, for example, really stands out as striving keep the "invitation to participate" or to express oneself consistent, whether it be on the brand webpage or in the community forums on YouTube. Of course, we have absolutely nothing to worry about if we believe consumers won't put a premium on consistency. But there's plenty of data to suggest they will; bloggers, for instance, constantly look for brand or company "disconnects, and put their discovery to the public airwaves. I also got a first-hand feel for this in analyzing countless letters and comments on PlanetFeedback.com, where the impetus for expression often stemmed from the site users (mostly women) feeling like brands didn't listen to them.
Experimentation & Listening-Centered Marketing: If anything, the two principles of "letting go" and "opening up" probably go hand in hand, and Lafley's speech clearly set the discussion and "conversation" on the right path. Importantly, we're about to see an explosion of unqualified marketer experimentation in the social media and "co-creation" arena. Do we really know what's truly going to work? (I don't!) In the absence of an accessible, empowering listening pipe, brands are throwing the radar to the winds. Indeed, keeping the consumer voice as close to us as possible has the potential to be the one source of competitive advantage for brands in this untested new marketing environment. Anyway, here's the full article. What do you think?
Other good reading: Are Marketers Serious About Ceding Control to the Consumer? (Max Kalehoff, MediaPost)