The modern face of advertising appears on small screen devices. It streams video directly to the palm of your hand. It can tell where you are and what your preferences are. With sophisticated tools like geo-targeting software and mobile apps, the barriers between consumer and business are being torn down.
This is great news for small businesses. The one man bands and mom n pop businesses of this world have been restored with the power to engage directly with consumers, just like they used to before the mass media age. One-to-one marketing is back in a big way.
This is a revolution in the truest sense. An enterprising sole trader may not literally knock on your door, but you can engage with them directly from your home. The same sense of accountability and transparency exists. You can put a face to the brand, which is something we all crave after decades of faceless corporatism.
The digital rebirth of direct consumer engagement is part of a wider trend. Entrepreneurs are catering for increasingly niche markets, not unlike the sales reps of old, who would visit a few hundred customers over the course of a year, displaying their wares and developing relationships as they went. The advent of mass broadcasting technology, and the proliferation of national print media during the 20th Century, made an anachronism of the travelling salesman. In his stead was a culture of grabbing huge market shares – bordering at times on monopolization – via glossy television, radio and magazine commercials. The big guys got bigger, the little guys littler.
As consumers grew more alienated from the people behind their brands, the first cracks in this monolithic corporate culture began to show. Cable television dealt a blow by targeting specialized audiences. Instead of appealing to the broadest market possible, advertisers were reaching fewer people, but with a higher percentage of conversions. Narrowcasting was gradually superseding broadcasting.
What began with cable television was taken to new heights with the arrival of the internet. On a modest budget, businesses could establish an online presence that allowed them to disseminate different messages to different demographics, ensuring only the most relevant content was seen.
Just when you thought direct marketing couldn’t be refined any further, SMS messaging improved on the web model by only communicating with consumers who had expressed an interest in a company. This development eliminated the millstone around the neck of email marketers: spam.
Because of the opt-in approach taken by SMS marketers, the text message remains the most trusted form of communication. More than 90% of text messages are opened and read within minutes.
This new, consent-focused iteration of 1:1 marketing is allowing businesses to talk to customers on their own terms. Personalized marketing is back, and it can only be a good thing.