What is the next killer technique for marketing? What will follow products and services as the main differentiators – as a guaranteed way of adding value and creating business growth? I believe we are reaching a new era of strategic thinking – and while most marketers will disagree, the important thing is that customers won’t.
A recent McKinsey research report listed 10 trends in business following the financial crisis. One result is that the market is increasingly turning into a low-trust environment. And what is most interesting is that the distrust goes in two directions. Customers distrust large companies and companies – notably financial institutions – have little faith in their customers. In effect, both parties have stopped giving credit.
On the other hand, trust exists more in horizontal relationships. Recommendations from other customers or online posting are one of the most important influences in the purchase decision.
But what can we learn from horizontal relationships as a business? First of all, we can appreciate that horizontal relations are human-centric. This reflects the findings of Melinda Davis in her ‘Human desire project’, that psycho-spiritual benefits are what customers value most highly – they are perhaps the ultimate differentiation.
The challenge for companies now is to embed human values in their business model. Many companies put values of good corporate citizenship in their mission statement, but they never really practise it.
A human-centric strategy has to build on three main pillars: collaboration (based on participation), culture (based on the globalisation) and spirituality (based on creativity). The central element of the strategy will be a compelling story that involves and empowers customers. The mission has to reflect employee values and behaviour, because employees will act as value ambassadors. Without this internal alignment, a human-centric strategy will fail. Brand management will then change into character building by telling the story around the mission, delivered at every possible touch point.