Marketers Beware: Transitioning to a Permission Economy

December 9, 2011by hiebing2021

Marketers Beware:                                                 Transitioning to a Permission Economy

As we continue our transformation from marketer-managed monologues to greater and greater consumer-controlled conversations, we must recognize we are only shepherds of the passion brands under our care. It is a great responsibility to work on a passion brand, those that consumers care for so much that they have come to form their own expectations of what defines it. You have an advantage as a marketer with an involved core of enthusiasts who are willing to express their opinions and defend the brand against most detractors.  But be aware, you are held responsible for decisions those enthusiasts feel are inconsistent with the brand, and they will let you know it.

Coca-Cola is the latest company to feel the sting from this kind of consumer backlash with their latest holiday can. Coca-Cola has created limited-edition holiday cans for years, but this year’s can violated brand expectations by delivering regular coke in a (gasp) white and silver can. Coke (the most popular soda brand) comes in a red can—silver is reserved for Diet Coke (the #2 soda). It’s not an unattractive design, bringing back the polar bears from past holiday efforts, but Coca-Cola and Diet Coke loyalists are not giving their permission to this break in packaging convention. It will be interesting to watch as Coca-Cola marketing executives position their original intent as red cans replace white ones on retailers shelves and in restaurants. (Meanwhile, look for good deals on the white cans that have already been shipped.)

Coke cans are not a unique example of a company misreading which changes consumers would allow in the marketing mix of some of their favorite brands. Within the last year, Netflix tried to alter their product offering only to have to reverse course, and the GAP tried to update the logo of their popular retail stores only to revert to the old logo, just with a new color. Marketers now share the most popular brands with the consumers who love them; they have to be more open to including those same consumers in some of their decision making.  So remember, when marketing a passion brand, stay in stride with your target and understand what they will or won’t allow.

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