Powerful Customers

My aunty is 85 years old and recently she got a new digital TV with a Sky Box. I was showing her how to use the remote control and I said, “Look at this. Imagine you’re watching a TV programme and you want to take a break or make a cup of coffee. All you do is press this button and the programme stops.” And she looked at me, in all seriousness, and said, “But what about everybody else?”

What that illustrates is the mindset of somebody who was brought up in the last century, whose social habits involved going to the cinema to watch, with everybody else, at the same time, the same films. And even more recently we all watched TV at the same time. Whereas younger consumers expect to be able to record a TV programme to watch later, or to watch it on the internet. For shorthand, we might call these ‘old consumers’ and ‘new consumers’.

In the age of Web 2.0, the interactive web, what we are witnessing is a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power in favour of consumers. We no longer have passive consumers who are told what to watch, when to watch it, how to watch it – but a new breed of much more informed, demanding, tech-savvy and communicative consumers.

Consumers are no longer passive. They are creators too. Consumers are also acting as marketers and even as financiers. Technology has enabled this shift in power, but it’s consumers who are driving it and becoming much more powerful. So we need to understand the new economics of the age that we’re living in and this underlying shift in power – a shift which makes things in some ways more difficult, and yet also brings new opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Business models that deny or resist this shift in power are doomed to failure. And that includes many established businesses that are stuck in their ways, who will not or cannot change. They won’t change because they’ve invested so much in the old way of doing business: their assets, financial structures, their mindset, their skills, their staff and their whole way of thinking is based on an outdated assumption that customers are passive and can be treated as one mass.

At the same time, on a positive note, new business models that embrace the fact that consumers are now ever more powerful will succeed. As a business adviser in the creative sector I am helping creative entrepreneurs in the UK and world-wide to develop innovative ways to create profitable business models based on the new opportunities to engage with powerful customers.

The most successful creative businesses in the future will be those which follow this approach.

This is an edited extract from a longer article based on a speech by David Parrish to a conference of TV producers in Finland. To watch the video of this speech online, visit: www.t-shirtsandsuits.tv

David Parrish is a keynote speaker, marketing adviser and trainer specialising in strategic marketing.