In the age of increasing emphasis on individual preferences, coupled with the prevalence of social media, the traditional rules of marketing would need to change. We are no longer talking about market segments that aggregate themselves neatly into discrete demographic groups, or consumer preferences that follow neat patterns. Information is available fast and free, and the general levels of trust in advertising has descended to an all-time low.
How do marketers hope to thrive in this landscape? Enter the concept of I-Marketing.
I-Marketing (or iMarketing if you prefer) is centred on the inherent quality of social relationships and consumer culture in the age of new media. The word “I” represents a clear focus on the singular person and what makes him or her tick in this day and age. It also reflects a sea-change in thinking, and moves away from the mass-produced age of television commercials and newspaper advertising to strategies that are more natural and organic, which flows better with people’s behaviours and wants.
Most of the ideas behind this isn’t new. Readers of Marketing 1to1 (a great idea by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers) would be familiar with some of them. In fact, they also have a 5I, although the emphasis is slightly different.
What are the dimensions of I-Marketing?
Marketing 101 tells us that ultimately, the buying decision is largely made by individuals as opposed to groups of individuals. Tailor make your strategies and tactics to the level of the person that you envisage will buy from you as much as possible, and get under his or her skin. Map out how such a person would live his or her life, and the occasions where he or she would have a chance to interact with your brand.
People are not going to move in unison in a singular direction. They are increasingly going to pander to their whims and fancies, preferring to take a serendipitous, disorganised stroll through a garden as opposed to a purposeful drive from point A to point B. To cater to this trend, marketing must make allowances for individual idiosyncrasies, and have the flexibility to accommodate our messiness.
Why do more and more steamboat restaurants pop up in Singapore? Why do “Operation Raleigh” type travels gain increasing traction? The answer is involvement. People want to be a part of the action and are not satisfied with becoming a mere bystander. Satisfying customers may mean getting them involved in the building and creating process before your product rolls off the line.
Influence boils down to gaining one’s respect and trust, and it involves achieving some degree of authority in a specific subject matter. With such an ever increasing diversity of choices, price or product features alone isn’t going to cut it. You will need to establish your credibility as a leader in your market space, no matter how large or small it is.
An aura of mystery and a veil of secrecy never fails to stimulate interest. Far too many marketers adopt a blatant, in-your-face approach in advertising, which does hardly anything for their brands. Bring back some romance and enchant your customers, because they will love you for it.
Ok maybe this doesn’t sound good in the age of HFMD, SARS and Bird Flu, but you do need your customers to pass it on. The greatest form of marketing is actually in your customer’s hands, not your own, and you need to be so remarkable that they will tell others about it. You also need to equip them with the tools for this.