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The Rise of the Empowered Consumer

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[ Business]

The Economist has a fascinating story about the increasing power consumers have in today’s marketplace. Snippets…

With consumers becoming increasingly empowered, how can the marketing, advertising and communications firms that companies use to promote their products hope to get their messages across? And what does it mean for media businesses relying on advertising revenue, the traditional channels for reaching this increasingly elusive audience?

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But nowadays a web search can turn up all sorts of skeletons in the cupboard, especially from news groups where people post comments, from online journals (called “web logs” or “blogs”) and more recently from “podcasting”, in which individuals produce their own audio programmes for others to download to their Apple iPods or other MP3 players. Video versions of this are sure to follow. Not all of this can be dismissed as amateurish twaddle. Microsoft, for instance, is taking blogs seriously enough to have hired its own celebrity blogger, Robert Scoble, even at the risk that he might be scathing about the company’s products.

This is a clever move. The less control a company has over its marketing message, the greater its credibility, says Pamela Talbot, an expert in consumer-product marketing and chief executive of the American side of Edelman, a giant public-relations firm. Indeed, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Mr Roberts thinks marketing departments must accept that brands no longer belong to them, but to the people who use them. The most valuable users of a company’s brand are what he describes as “inspirational consumers”-people who are closely associated with a company and its products. It does not even have to be another company. Some of the most successful agents for generating a buzz-and plenty of free publicity-can be the people who run the business.

Source: SURVEY: CONSUMER POWER

Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.

The Rise of the Empowered Consumer
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