CMOs: Marketing to the “One,” not the “Billions”

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I was channel surfing the other night and caught a glimpse of a Wendy’s commercial. Wendy Thomas herself—she of the red hair and braids—looked straight at the camera and said, “Some places like to talk about the billions served.  At Wendy’s, we never gave much thought to billions. We’re focused on the one; the one who is next in line.”

Talk about a brilliant sound bite. In ten seconds, Wendy’s manages to take a shot at competitors, who presumably are focused on “billions” (referring both to customers and to dollars), while placing itself firmly on the side of the individual customer. Wendy’s, it would seem, understands that we don’t really care what the countless people in front of us ordered.

We don’t want to be lumped in with an amorphous demographic. We’re different. We’re unique. And we want to be treated accordingly.

You could argue that business has always been personal and I’d agree. In fact, I suspect that when people say they miss their local mom-and-pop shops, what they’re really missing is their relationships with the shopkeepers.

What’s different today is that we’re in the middle of a commerce revolution, where for the first time, businesses have the opportunity to engage their customers as individuals, but on a massive scale. The confluence of social networks, mobile devices, and increasingly powerful apps has given rise to the article in the New York Times that discusses the ways in which customers, through their use of social media, have turned the cosmetics industry on its head. How? By turning to social networks to protest loudly and at scale when favorite products have been taken off the shelf. The Times quotes Karen Grant, a senior global industry analyst with the NPD Group, a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y. as saying that social media is “literally reshaping how the market is driven.”

CMOs take note: this new breed of customer is driving the new science of marketing, which again underscores the brilliance of Wendy’s “one” message. The net effect on commerce as we practice and understand it is profound.

If you’re interested in further exploring how empowered customers are reshaping commerce, I’d recommend that you consider Doc Searls’s new book, The ClueTrain Manifesto and one of the most respected (and beloved) technology writers anywhere. Read his book and count your lucky stars to be a part of this commerce revolution.

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