Direct Marketing. Going From One To Many.
Human beings are social creatures. Groups evolved from common ancestors, bound by common language, common traditions and mutually rewarding goals. But the industrial revolution created new cities and towns and the emergence of cheap travel ensured that communities that once lived together for centuries broke up and grew disparate.
Soon economists and anthropologists were busy finding ways to group people with different interests, views and beliefs. Age, income, job profile, education, family size became some of the yardsticks used to put together different people into similar groups.
Direct marketing went a step further. Instead of talking to large groups, these marketers went out to create ways to speak to individuals. 1 to 1 became their mantra. Engaging with one person, creating customized products and services that could fulfill his unique needs became the order of the day. Tools like CRM were able to take one to one marketing to levels of sharpness that could never have been possible.
The world is changing once again. New communities are forming online that are in many ways similar to the old ones that broke up a century or two ago. In fact these communities are bound by a different set of values that go far beyond the ones that bound traditional ones. What’s more, these groups can come together and break up at will. The recent protests against Flickr allowing video uploads were from people around the globe who came together in a matter of few days and broke away the day after the protest was over.
Even more interesting is that a person can be a part of multiple groups, leading multiple lives quickly and easily.
So are we about to see the emergence of GRM (Group Relationship Marketing programs) and the emergence of specialists who deal with social groups? While this may look like a simple evolutionary step, there could be interesting challenges that need to be thought through before direct marketers take a plunge into engaging with social groups.
Unlike talking to one person and convincing her about the values of buying into something, groups are a little more complicated. There is a lot of chatter that goes about within these groups. Also, if a person within the group has had a positive or negative experience with a product or service, then that pretty much seals the chances of acceptance or rejection within that community.
Another interesting angle to these new group formations is that people have started to understand how much power these groups can actually wield. Unlike in the past, a stray complaint could have been handled one to one and resolved without too many people becoming aware of the problem. In the new group-forming culture, small hiccups could turn into big problems for companies and