Michael Magee, vice president marketing at Mars Chocolate UK, reflects on how the development of the internet has reshaped the marketing world.
The internet has changed every aspect of marketing today. From how we build relationships with consumers, to how we recruit, design, develop and sell.
In the 1990s, there was still a push mentality, which replicated the mass audience, one-way communication associated with TV. This was understandable since push communications had become established over decades.
Later, in the 2000s, significant urgency and energy was invested in building brand and corporate sites but they still weren’t always interesting for consumers. Many were introspective, lacking in compelling editorial content, and few contained the entertainment hooks of today. Again, the communication model was one of give rather than engage.
The defining feature of today is that the consumer is far more in control of content selection and there is the opportunity for a genuine two-way exchange, and for mass personalisation.
One of the earliest examples I can remember as a consumer of this shift from "inform" to "engage" was designing my own car on a manufacturer’s site. It was early days and in the time it took to load your personalised design you could go and pick up your kids up from school! But it was an early example of personalisation, consumer control, and the ability to do most of the legwork from home.
As vending and retail models change, and the phone effectively becomes our wallet, the distance between content and consumer purchasing decisions will get smaller
Today we operate in a market shaped by compelling content, numerous in its quantity and fragmented in its nature. Content has proliferated beyond simple brand expression and association to now play a critical role in brand "conversations".
Businesses such as ASOS are best in class in merging entertaining content, while closing a sale at the same time. This makes the internet very accountable to the business model.
In traditional FMCG food marketing, the route to a sale is more indirect making it less accountable. But as vending and retail models change, and the phone effectively becomes our wallet, the distance between content and consumer purchasing decisions will get smaller.
As we look forward, this two-way information exchange will help marketers better understand consumers’ needs and preferences but will also give the audience even greater control over content, personalisation and the shape of future products.
And who knows, one day you might have a virtual Mars factory in your home, with the ability to order online and print your favourite bar on your 3D printer.
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