A 2015 Trend To Watch:
People-Powered Marketing (PPM)
Matthew Scott

It’s hard to imagine a world without social media. For marketers, it’s even harder to recall a time before brands had the tools and technologies to engage with real people, in real time, to drive tangible business value.

At Social Media Week New York last month, several panels explored the evolving relationship between brands and people, and outlined ways for marketers to connect with a new generation of consumers via burgeoning social channels. Crowdtap’s own session took a direct approach to this theme, exploring the causes for consumer mistrust in brands and why the solution to this challenge – People-Powered Marketing (PPM) – is a trend to watch in 2015.

So what is People-Powered Marketing? Simply put, it’s a new approach to marketing that runs counter to the traditional strategies employed by brands in the past. When brands take a people-powered approach, they place real people at the center of it all, empowering their advocates to drive product ideation, inform go-to-market strategies and create authentic content that fuels earned media.

Here are some key takeaways from our session on People-Powered Marketing:

People love brands, but they aren’t big on traditional advertising. Most millennials say they don’t like or trust when brands reach them by way of traditional advertising mechanisms. At the very same time, they say that brands play an essential role in their lives. These findings are less about millennials as a demographic, and more about the advancing trend in which technology-empowered consumers (millennials, teens and beyond) are seeking new relationships with brands that are more even-handed.

The demands of the digital ecosystem are inspiring large brands to steal a page from the startup playbook. This means favoring nimble and iterative changes to their programs over striving to guess at a perfect strategy out of the gate. People-Powered Marketing replaces the linear model of engaging consumers with an iterative cycle that elevates the consumer voice across all stages of marketing and product development.

The power of user-generated content lies in its authenticity. Professionally developed content (e.g. stock photos in ads) might look more polished than user generated content, but it will not resonate with people in the same way. Per a 2014 Ipsos study, millennials in particular spend 30 percent of their total media time with content that’s created and shared by their peers. Moreover, Crowdtap recently fielded a study with Millward-Brown Digital, which found that user generated content outperforms standard digital media units across major brand metrics such as awareness, favorability and purchase intent.

Great content is people-powered. The most effective content is developed and shared in a way that addresses the audience’s unmet needs. It’s no longer a viable approach for marketers to create top down messaging and hope consumers respond to it. In the digital age, the best content is powered by consumer-driven insights, and it is created and distributed in collaboration with real people.

A marketer’s instinct is to go straight for the point-of-sale, but brand loyalty begins much further up the funnel. Engagement and loyalty programs are tougher to measure, but this does not mean they are not incredibly valuable to brands. Consider the long-term impact of creating an authentic relationship with your consumers before writing social off simply because it does not easily fit within standardized measurement systems created during television’s heyday.

If the current state of digital media and the still nascent trend of People-Powered Marketing can teach us anything, it’s that consumers are increasingly calling the shots. Marketers should look at this not as a threat, but rather as an unprecedented opportunity to tap into the consumer voice to tell powerful stories and unlock new insights about their brands.

After all, social media was never really about brands anyway. It’s always been about people. It’s time for marketers to get back to basics, using social to empower people to become co-authors of their brand’s story.

Matthew Scott is the Senior Vice-President for Business Development and Strategy at Crowdtap.