The internet has upended how consumers engage with brands. It is transforming the economics of marketing and making obsolete many of the function’s traditional strategies and structures. For marketers, the old way of doing business is unsustainable.
Consider this: Not long ago, a car buyer would methodically pare down the available choices until he arrived at the one that best met his criteria. A dealer would reel him in and make the sale. The buyer’s relationship with both the dealer and the manufacturer would typically dissipate after the purchase. But today, consumers are promiscuous in their brand relationships: They connect with myriad brands—through new media channels beyond the manufacturer’s and the retailer’s control or even knowledge—and evaluate a shifting array of them, often expanding the pool before narrowing it. After a purchase these consumers may remain aggressively engaged, publicly promoting or assailing the products they’ve bought, collaborating in the brands’ development, and challenging and shaping their meaning.