"We're in a new era of increased consumer power"
Asher Rospigliosi
Ángela Plaza
Rospigliosi, whose research focuses on the impact of ICT on business techniques, attended a conference on marketing 3.0 organized by the IN3 research group i2TIC and offered some insights into how this new way of doing business is transforming contemporary society.
The first question that needs to be asked is, "What is marketing 3.0?

I don't have a single clear, simple answer, but I think marketing 3.0 is the result of three phenomena that are converging. The first is big data: we now have access to a massive amount of data in real time. The second is mobile communication, which is turning out to be the big transformation. We still don't know what the impact will be when every consumer on the planet has access to all the information available on a product via good search tools. Finally, the third factor is real-time response. We're starting to see, in Google's pay-per-click marketing, how the ads displayed change instantaneously depending on the user's preferences. All these phenomena have been around for some time, but now they're converging.

Users can get all kinds of information via Google, and no doubt that's a benefit, but we mustn't forget that while the user is engaged in this process, Google is also collecting data about that person as a consumer and personal information. Do think this could be a dangerous situation in the future, or that it already is?

In fact we know this has already become a problem, because if we look at the revelations made by Edward Snowden - about how governments are using the data - it's clear we've been stripped of our privacy. We've seen that contradictions and manipulations are part of the system. We've developed tools that are very good when it comes to personalization and supporting consumer decisions, but when consumers use these tools they reveal what they're thinking, what's happening, and so on. Marketing 3.0 affects every choice we make, and this manipulation of our decisions could become something very dangerous.

How can marketing 3.0 reach those who are part of the so-called counterculture, that is, people who don't want to consume certain brands, or who belong to an alternative society?

If we're talking about a product or a brand, we'll have to personalize our message as much as possible. Even if they don't have Facebook, for example, they'll have a mobile phone with internet access, and that's what will help us connect with them. We'll do what they call permission marketing. Marketing 3.0 has the power to deliver a personalized message to the consumer.

One positive aspect of this new age of communication is the way it empowers consumers, because they can decide what products they want or need. Has this led to a change in the way companies do business?

For me, one of the most positive things about this increased sharing of information is the sharing economy. For example, right now I'm staying in Barcelona at a lovely apartment I found online. Consumers now have a wider range of choices available to them. If we can use a website to share or let someone else use a spare room in our apartment, we can, in a way, combat the excesses of capitalism and avoid the need to create new accommodation if places are available.

Could this be the start of a new, more collaborative society, one that's moving beyond the desire to make money and get rich?

Yes, though I think there's room for that too. I mean people will probably always want to be richer, but online tools at the service of a spirit of collaboration let us choose.

Thanks to the internet, we now have access to a multitude of products, many of which are good. In this context, how can a company set itself apart from the rest? Are the rules of the game changing?

In a way, the global market created by the internet makes it more difficult and complicated for companies to say, "This is my product. Choose it." There are many different alternatives. This is where the value of conversation comes into play. I think the phenomenon of blogging (or any other kind of user content generator) is an ideal way for companies to establish a relationship with consumers. This validates their product, in comparison with others, based on the support of people who use it. So for a company - if it wants its products to be found on the market - it's important to recognize the value of product users and reward them.

Within this community, is the point of establishing a strong relationship to create loyal users, users who are more like fans, for example?

It's more a matter of building a relationship with implicit emotion, of making the act of consuming an emotional experience. Even so - though this is an important factor - what we're seeing is an increase in consumer power. For example, if you love your mobile phone but buy the new model and don't like it, you can say so online. So when products change, in terms of services or performance, and they're not as good, consumers can compare them with others and say "no" in a public way.

And in this context, what's more dangerous for a company, a critic or a fan?

The latest studies have shown that critics have more of an impact. This applies to negative reviews, particularly those concerned with experiences rather than consumer products. Yet for companies and organizations that recognize the value of engaging in a conversation with their customers, this situation can become an opportunity to deliver good customer service and even a critic can provide us with value.

Is e-commerce the future? Where do we stand now and what direction are we moving in?

Yes, e-commerce is the future, but it's not the only one. I live in Brighton and over the last five years the number of cafés there has grown. Even if you could get a delicious cup of coffee online, I wouldn't want to have it at home, alone. Here what matters is the experience of being somewhere, and here e-commerce has nothing to offer.

On a related note, we now have many devices available to communicate with people around the world, but is this communication real or a sham?

That's a hard question to answer for many reasons. For example, for me this interview we're doing is a much more real experience than it would have been if we'd done it on Skype or by email, though I like the added value Skype and email provide. I do think online communication is real communication. I think when humans first appeared on Earth they used drums to communicate with people on the other side of the mountain; they shouted; they used smoke signals...

But when we travel on the underground, we see that people don't look at each other; they're just looking at their mobile phones. Could we be witnessing a change in the way human beings communicate?

I think there are a lot of issues we need to resolve and that we don't know all the answers. If my mother had told me she loved me by ringing me on a mobile phone rather than whispering it into my ear, would that make it less real? I don't know. When everyone's looking at their phone on the underground, they're sharing more love than ever, because they're telling someone else they miss them, or that they'll be home soon. I think there's more communication now and that this gives us a lot of reasons to feel good.

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