For most of its history, advertising has been a one-way street. The sneaky advertiser, aided and abetted by his publicity chums lies in wait and then ambushes the innocent and oblivious prospect, transmits a sales message, and hey presto!, an attitude is changed or some desired behavioral response invoked. In this way, the entire industry became adept at outbound messaging, and mainly used market research to improve its efficiency with the big questions: Who shall we target? Where shall we find them? And what will make them buy?
In the early years of the new millennium, the status quo was completely destabilized by the second coming of the Internet, known as Web 2.0. Quite suddenly, the prospect was no longer a passive participant, but armed with the means of providing instant feedback and crucially, the ability to share it with others, the consumer was in fact no longer the consumer, but a potentially huge marketplace wave of energy that could overwhelm the brand.
You might suggest that the old game was a bit like archery (find your target and shoot), but reflect that the new game is much more like table tennis played against multiple opponents where a clumsy return is roundly punished. So unlike the old ‘burst’ approach to campaign planning, brands today have to manage continuous exchanges, and in so doing have had to learn an important new skill: being a good listener isn’t enough anymore, you need to be a great conversationalist as well.