In a typical Marketing 101 class 10 years ago, a simplified description of the sales cycle would be something like this: develop product, identify sales channel, gain placements, market, sell. While there are obviously a lot of nuances to this process, it seemed pretty straight forward; find a store that fit your customer base and then advertise either on the radio, TV, or in print, and hopefully the customers would come. Fast forward to how products are currently sold and things have drastically changed. Well-established brands do not have all of the advantage anymore, as smaller brands have access to some of the same marketing opportunities, and TV and print advertising are no longer considered the king of advertising. I am sure everyone can guess the direction I am going with this one….social media. What was once a way for college students to know who else attended their school has become our news, calendars, and even product recommendation tool.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest are among the various social media outlets that have the most influence over the products we buy and even know about. A small brand might get their product into the hands of a popular YouTuber and voila, immediate success could happen. This used to be known as the Oprah effect, but now has spread to so many other people.
Instagram works very similarly. Various people have millions of followers and they often provide sponsored posts featuring a particular product. Many people don’t even realize these are sponsored, but trust the opinion of that individual who they likely follow because they relate to them or like something about them. These types of ads appear as testimonials from trusted “friends”. Of course, we all want to go out and buy that awesome blender or toothbrush.
Pinterest started out as a way to collect the images from the internet to create virtual inspiration boards. Thousands of people signed up and shared their boards filled with recipes, style ideas, home improvement design options, and others with friends and family. Then, a similar phenomenon happened as with what is happening with Instagram. People started following others that they don’t know in real life but feel a type of connection with and want to know about the things that they like. And from there, internet searches are performed and purchases are made.
So what does this mean? How does this impact us? It means that advertising just got a whole lot more complicated. There is no longer a pretty little process for promoting products and money is not always what helps gain a company or product the most attention. Influencers are the key to brand success at this point. And while soda companies have used celebrities like Beyoncé for years on commercials, the message is a bit more believable if she was showing herself enjoying a beverage on her Instagram. While food, cosmetics, and home décor might be what is most commonly driven through these outlets today, consumer electronics and lifestyle tools are not far behind.
Our exposure to advertising and promotional activity is constant and many of us don’t even realize it. It will be the brands that can tap into this in a genuine way that will ultimately succeed. Sure, Sunday circulars are still a way to draw customers into a store for your consumer electronics and home appliances, but seeing what camera your favorite YouTube star uses is likely more influential to your decision of what product you will ultimately purchase.