A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (queue Star Wars theme), we lived in a world dominated by the so-called “Top-Down” marketing. Divided as we were in our distinct personalities and preferences, top-down marketing brought us all together. We tuned in to but a handful of TV channels to choose from, we listened to the same songs curated by a few top DJs, and recognized the same top brands.
Big brands dominated the market and told us what to buy, record labels told DJs what to play and that’s what we listened to—we were boxed into categories and had fewer options. With fewer options, self-identifying with brands was easy at the cost of what our preferences really were. It was an easy market for the bigger players, and a hard place the small, the unique, the personal. This defined the marketing of the past.
A Psychology Review
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings long for fulfilling a sense of belonging and self-esteem after physiological and safety needs are met. In the modern world, where most of our physiological needs like food, water, and sleep have for the most part been reduced to simple spending choices we can fulfill (and not the good ‘ol hunting, foraging or nomad-ing around for safety and shelter), a sense of belonging and self-esteem, one can say, have become the harder things in life to achieve.
Suffice to say, in an increasingly connected world that thrives on individualism, it’s easier to feel more detached and disconnected now more than ever. #OhTheIrony
With today’s technology and access to ubiquitous information, it’s easier to be “ourselves” and consume products and services that align with our quest for individualism and self-expression. Take for instance music platforms like Shazam and Spotify: big data, predictive analytics and intelligent algorithms gave us access to music we can curate on our own and identify with, not the ones forced on us by giant record labels or established radio DJs.
Top-Down vs Peer-to-Peer Marketing
As great as this is for the individual consumer, the aftermath is the realization that what the market demands is spreading thin. For instance, singer/songwriter Taylor Swift is arguably one of the biggest artists in the US today. She’s made quite a name for herself that she had plucked her music out of music-sharing platforms like Spotify without flinching. Yet she has sold but a million records, equating to about 1/300th of the population—a fraction of what the big record artists of the top-down marketing era used to make.
For the hoi polloi, we just don’t care that much. Michael Jackson sold 42 million copies of Thriller released in 1982 when the population was 231 million. This equates to 1/5 of the population, a bit more significant.
The marketing conversation in top-down marketing went something like this: “We created this product, buy it if you like it.” This however simply doesn’t thrive in the millennial market of today.
People are tired of being dictated to and being drowned in logos, labels, and ads. They seek to self-expression, and control. We live in the on-demand era where we get exactly what we are powerful—we get exactly what we want, how we want it, when we want it.
Related Article: How to Create Your Social Media Marketing Plan of Attack
This demand transformed the conversation into a movement for you to join with your peers: the concert, the movement, the brand message. More than just the product, more than just the service. Marketing naturally moved towards fulfilling belongingness and self-esteem. And with that, Peer-to-Peer Marketing was born.
What does it all mean?
Your target market wants to believe they own a part of what you’re offering. As inbound marketers, we need to attack deeper emotions at the belonging and esteem needs levels. State Farm brilliantly executed this in one of their previous TV campaigns. We need to ask permission to be invited into our target markets’ worlds. We don’t push, we attract.
The conversation must switch from, “We built this, buy it” to, “We’re all in this together.”
- Patients want to believe they play an active role in their own successful medical treatment. It’s about well-being and lifestyle now, not just the treatment.
- Mining engineers want to believe they own part of the software helping to plan the construction of their next project. It’s “my software” customized to “my needs” for “my success.”
- Your employees want to do more than take orders and follow directions. They want to be an active part of your organization’s success. Not just fit in, but get a sense of ownership—that they are part of a bigger culture with an important message that they are truly invested in.
Everyone has their own personal “club.” And so exploring your brand’s buyer persona in detail and figuring out ways to enable your target market to feel like they “belong” is the key to the business success ladder of today. Help them fulfill their needs and you will help your business grow.