We are in the midst of a marketing evolution that is moving much faster than most are aware. At one time, marketing was about contact. Then it became about engagement. Now it’s about inhabiting your customer’s world.
Stan Rapp was the godfather of one-to-one direct marketing. As the co-founder of legendary agency Rapp Collins Worldwide (now RAPP), he practically invented one-to-one direct marketing. Sebastian Jespersen’s career developed in the age of engagement. He co-founded the global digital media agency, Vertic. Together they are redefining the way customers are created, nurtured and grown. In order to function in today’s marketplace, brands must change their focus from trying to trigger an immediate sale to understanding the consumer’s lifestyle and routines. This will not only change how they market, but how they do business, including what they offer, where they sell and how they deliver.
The Share of Life® concept presents a new set of imperatives for dealing with this life-changing moment. Embedding your brand into the customer’s new mode of existence – what we describe as gaining Share of Life® – is the key to success going forward.
Studies indicate that more than half the day is spent in front of a digital device. We live online. At a time when neural networks recognize spoken words better than people do, Gaining Share of Life rethinks the very nature of business activity in an ever-evolving digital frontier.
“You want people using your product because it's a part of your life, then they can't stop using it.” - Sean Parker
Traditional thinking gets challenged every 20 years or so. In the 60’s we had mass marketing and a struggle for share of mind. The 80’s gave us the information revolution and database marketing. At the turn of the century, booming internet usage set the stage for digital marketing. Now, a generation later, life beyond the tipping point requires a different model. The time has arrived for a radical new concept we describe as Share of Life®.
The new measure of a brand’s strength is the share it gets of the customer’s attachment to the internet. The way to win the game is to gain and hold on to consumers who are obsessed with cyber activities. Think of Share of Life® as the depth of a brand’s multi-screen presence in a person’s 24-hour day. The Share of Life® doctrine calls for the brand and the consumer to benefit from creating value together online. Share of Life® teaches companies to be so entangled in their customers’ lives that the brand rarely comes to mind.
Full entanglement occurs when the customer interacts with your brand reflexively without even thinking about it, such as downloading from iTunes or streaming from Netflix or purchasing from Amazon. It’s just part of the customer’s day. That’s Share of Life®.
Slavish concentration on the smartphone recasts how companies acquire and retain customers. Far too often, the brand is out of sync with progress in the digital domain. Forrester notes that the fate of individual firms has never been more uncertain. They tell us that the window of opportunity is closing for companies unprepared to think differently.
An agency’s mission is no longer about driving traffic or eyeballs—it’s about delivering a new mindset that creates zero degrees of separation between the brand and customer.
Mere engagement is yesterday’s news. The most far-sighted managers find ways to entangle the brand and the user in supportive, ongoing experiences. The greater the Share of Life® online, the greater the chance of retaining a customer forever.
Share of Life® is more than simply developing a relationship between a brand and a customer. It strives to ensure that such a relationship will last a lifetime. Consider Share of Life® as a paradigm shift taking place at the heart of brands within a digital-first age, an evolution from what marketers had traditionally known as ‘one-to-one’ marketing is now moving towards ‘one-with-one.’ Our rapidly changing digital age is constantly reshaping our attitudes toward brands and media, as well as our interactions with the world itself. In the past, products and services relied heavily on mass media, so that a generic message communicated to a wide audience would result in a potential purchase by some within that audience.
We’re now experiencing a dramatic evolution of how brands and customers interact—more directly and even more intimately. With automation and artificial intelligence reshaping everyday life, consumers expect more from the brand, but they are also willing to do more with the brand. Closing an immediate sale has become secondary to making your product or service an essential part of the consumer’s digital existence.
These were screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s words describing what the founding of Facebook could mean for the way we live as a society. They’ve grown truer with each passing year, as companies have stepped up their efforts to put their online presence at the forefront of their brand.
People now have more daily experiences online than they do in real life. Instead of speaking to co-workers, we send emails. Rather than paying someone in person, we send it through Venmo. When we book a trip, we use travel sites, not travel agents. “We increasingly do more of our shopping, more of our dating, more of our friendship-making, more of our learning, more of our news-seeking, more of our communicating and more of our selling goods, services and ideas,” said economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman as he described our digital reliability across all types of monitors and screens. Our online world provides a wealth of goods and services, so companies have now begun to strive for excellence in how their products are provided.
Today, the brands that have surpassed all others are those that are digital by nature. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google — without question – have all incorporated their brands into the daily routines of their consumers.
Google, as an example, has entrenched its brand into consumer lifestyle by both anticipating and addressing needs even before they’re recognized by the people who have them. When Google finally introduces its long-awaited self-driving car, users will immediately understand the benefits of reading, working, or sleeping while commuting in the privacy and home-like feel of their own vehicle.
By inserting itself into a new part of the consumer’s life and adding value where it has not been active before, Google will continue to gain greater Share of Life®. Google focuses on adding value to things that consumers already want, such as an easier ride to work. Google’s Share of Life® crosses multiple activities or areas of a customer’s life. Google, of course, is more than a search engine; the company now produces phones and cars, while helping us navigate with Google Maps and connecting us through Gmail and features like Google docs and spreadsheets.
Through basic need-filling and smart planning, there is seldom a 24-hour period where someone does not check their email, use Google Maps or perform a Google search. That’s significant Share of Life®.
One element of the journey is to achieve Zero Degrees of Separation by closing the gap between brand and consumer.
Simple demographics are no longer enough in today’s complex marketing environment. Market researchers and consumer experts are now delivering more than just numbers. They are analyzing giant data sets to provide information that can be acted upon by all divisions of a company that work with customers and prospects, including behavior patterns, product usage and trend forecasting.
They are leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in order to provide critical insights and opportunities. The brands that are winning are those that achieve zero degrees of separation with a customer by essentially incorporating the brand into the person’s lifestyle and daily routine without being perceived as intrusive. Marketers need to seek more granular insights into the needs and pains of their consumers to close the gap from arms-length to zero degrees. Doing so will uncover new areas where brand messaging can yield a higher degree of resonance.
The ‘One-to-One’ direct marketing strategy has evolved into the ‘One-with-One’ entangled marketing relationship.
The word “to” implied that there had to be opposing sides. There are no need for opponents in marketing. When a brand and a customer become friends, the relationship takes off, and will often endure to the satisfaction of both. The brand’s insights into the customer’s desires fuels this evolution. A “data companionship” with both the consumer and the brand only serves to strengthen the relationship and keep it relevant over time.
Under Armour is betting on the notion that the right hardware, combined with large data sets enhanced by machine learning and powerful motivational tools can enhance their customers’ lives and the company’s bottom line. Under Armour sells athletic gear. They provide an app free of charge called Record that customers can use to track their daily fitness routines and goals. User data gleaned from the app is used to develop precise recommendations for individual consumers. They are creating products and services with the consumer, not just for the consumer. The company can spot trends as they unfold and respond to market demands in real time. By becoming entangled in their lives, they’ve proven that everyday athletes want to know more about the brand as well as do more with it. In today’s world, there must be a stickiness in the brand-to-consumer relationship. They cannot be on opposing sides.
A great example is the company’s new effort called Make Athletes Better. The brand has launched a new line of clothing that literally turns human performance into big data. In fact, Under Armour is no longer just a manufacturer of high-quality sporting clothes, but has transformed into a high-tech fitness partner enhancing your life and workout experiences.
The third element needed to gain Share of Life® is for brand and customer to become an entangled pair, a term Jespersen and Rapp borrowed from the world of quantum mechanics. In other words, whatever effects one, effects the other. Both the brand and customer emerge as winners in the relationship.
In ‘One-to-One’ marketing, brands and customers had separate definitions of success, where brands would get paid and customers would get a product. This antiquated definition of marketing is no longer the goal of the relationship. Instead, both sides are interested in gaining value and satisfaction, so that brands are rewarded with higher levels of customer loyalty while customers are provided with excellent goods and services.
The more you entangle people through rewarding, value-adding experiences, the greater share you will receive of that person’s life.
This entanglement will only create further growth for a brand as it evolves into other aspects of a customer’s daily existence. Just like the five digital leaders we’ve cited, a company should not stop at filling one need, but should look to fill other needs that a person may have on a routine basis. When a brand can take part in solving persistent problems of a customer, the entanglement only becomes stronger and has the potential to go on for future generations.
When it comes to applying Share of Life® doctrine, the leading trailblazers are Amazon, Microsoft and Apple. It may well be one of the reasons these three titans were first in the world to hit a valuation of one trillion dollars.
Forrester recently published a research report titled What to Learn From Apple’s Coming Brawl with Amazon. It highlights what matters now. “The entangled digital customer relationship will define the future of marketing” writes principal analyst James McQuivey. “A new metric, Share of Life, goes far beyond the Share-of-Wallet or even Share-of-Mind metrics. The most powerful brands of the future will measure what percent of the minutes of your day they can meaningfully support.”
Whether your brand is operating vertically or horizontally, there is a simple yet impactful framework that can be used to put the Share of Life® concept into practice, which we call the Share of Life® C.R.E.E.D.