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Marketers Focus on Reaching "Conversationalists"
Forrester Marketing Forum '10: A Forrester Research vice president defines marketing adaptability.
Posted May 5, 2010
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Addressing an industry crowd at the recent Forrester Marketing Forum 2010 in Los Angeles, David M. Cooperstein, vice president and marketing leadership role manager at event host Forrester Research, stressed the need for marketers to quickly adapt to new media. In his keynote address, entitled Adaptive Marketing: Rethinking Marketing Methods in the Digital Age, Cooperstein posed three questions to his audience:

  • How has the customer evolved with the onslaught of digital and social media?
  • How have marketers adapted?
  • And what can marketers do today to adapt marketing efforts?

Cooperstein defines adaptive marketing as a "flexible approach in which marketers respond quickly to their environment to align customer and brand goals and maximize return on brand equity."

His definition of marketing adaptability is composed of three tenets:

  • Think and move differently;
  • Listen more, react intelligently; and
  • Target people, not statistics.

Cooperstein opened the address with an abbreviated history of media, detailing television news's transformation from a nightly communal activity to a twenty-four hour on-demand activity. Cooperstein argued that this change forced journalists to report news faster and more frequently, to amplify their own content, to engage the audience with comments and conversations in multiple venues, and to compete with "peer influence" Websites like HuffingtonPost.com, Dailybeast.com, TechCrunch.com, and PerezHilton.com.

Cooperstein then drew a parallel between marketing and journalism, emphasizing how both industries must adapt to how each thinks about consumer needs.

"Viewers are your customers," Cooperstein said to the crowd of marketers. "And those customers are affected by distribution. Distribution is evolving and forcing consumers to think about things differently."

Customer distraction, Cooperstein argues, is one of the main challenges marketers face today. Citing a 2009 North American Technographics Interactive Marketing Online Survey, Cooperstein revealed that 50 percent of Generation X watches television while browsing the internet. 45 percent of Generation Y responders answered similarly. The study also revealed that 53 percent of U.S. online adults who browse the internet while simultaneously watching TV are not browsing for and watching the same subjects.

What this means for marketers, Cooperstein argued, is that advertising must target new media, such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, and Hulu.

"Three billion is the number of searches on Google every month. 186 million is the number of times the most watched YouTube video has been watched...30 million streams a day occur on Hulu. This is a nightmare for TV networks."

Marketers must focus on reaching "Conversationalists" - people who use Facebook status updates and Twitter posts to have conversations with each other and brands.

One example of a company that has adapted well to the Conversationalist phenomenon is the clothing retailer Burberry. On its Art of the Trench Website customers can comment on Burberry clothing or share items on their Facebook page. In 8 weeks Burberry had 330,000 visitors from 191 countries that spent 5.5 minutes on the site, and the sale of trench coats increased by 85%.

But social media isn't the end-all for marketers. Cooperstein warned the audience members to stay alert for new distribution outlets.

"There are things coming you can't predict," Cooperstein cautioned. "How are you going to deal with the fact that people are going to tell you where they are on Foursquare? 235 million people have played a Zynga game. How are you going to deal with things like this that are [beneficial to] you?"

Cooperstein explained what marketers can do today to adapt.

Because new channels, new interactions, and new engagements are going to come, the audience is going to change and behave in different ways. Marketers have to experiment early and figure out how these new channels i nteract with their particular brand platform.

He also said two new roles have to emerge:

Brand Advocate: a team member who understands and engages with communities.

Brand Strategist: a team member who is thinking about the data and feedback provided by the Brand Advocate.

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