Our conversation centered around his new book "Generation C - The Confluence Marketing at the Era of Connected Consumers" in which he examines the challenges and opportunities presented by content and influencer marketing in relation to successive generations that are increasingly less receptive to traditional communication. He explores the evolution of individuals’ behavior as consumers but also workers and members of society. Raymond provides us with invaluable insights and advice for anyone interested in marketing in our digital age.
1. Many people talk about millennials, yet you speak of a Connected Generation. How do you define it? What is its impact?
The new Connected Generation, also known as Generation C, encompasses successive generations of active users and consumers on the internet. From elders and baby boomers to digital natives, they are now all involved in the social and digital transformation of organizations.
It is a new and more sociological approach to generations, based on the observed behaviors of a group in response to changes rather than on demographic data. Today, as technological innovations transform society at an accelerated pace, we see micro-generations emerging, each with specific characteristics and motivations.
In reality, the concept of Generation C is not new and goes back to 2004 with the appearance of social networks, and when Dutch magazine TrendWatching.com observed behavioral traits linking the different generations of connected consumers. Each of these new generations of "connected consumers" wants to be heard, and demands that companies and brands respond to their requests.
Fourteen years later, they each uniquely impact several aspects of society: from home to workplace, to education, communication, social relations and entertainment. For companies, it is therefore critical to understand their motivations and habits in order to better satisfy their expectations. This is what I explain in the book.
2. How do you see marketing evolve over the next few years? How do you think brands will communicate?
With Generation C, it is now both users and consumers that dominate the balance of power with brands. The connected consumer is empowered by the endless choices resulting from accessibility to the web and social media, which profounding changes the business/customer relationship. Today, connected consumers rely more on their peers’ recommendations to seek information and prioritize the quality of their experience with the brand as par with the product itself. This forces companies and brands to adapt their message and communicate differently with their clients.
In this context and thanks to new technological innovations (augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 3D printing) and the analysis of personal data accessible online, I believe marketing campaigns will be more personalized, more targeted towards the connected consumers, and will aim firstly to satisfy the customer's experience. Influencer relations will become even more important to the success of digital campaigns.
3. What attributes will companies need to succeed in this new era? Which type of companies will attract consumers and recruit talent?
The companies and brands that will prove most successful in the social and digital transformation will be those able to understand how to adapt their marketing approach to better meet the new connected consumers’ expectations, and to review their organizational process accordingly. To regain their trust, the company has to become the product being showcased. It must show transparency and put the "employer brand" at the heart of its digital strategy.
With this in mind, all stakeholders will have to be involved in the strategy, starting with the CEO, and extending to public relations, communications, marketing, sales and customer service teams. Internal advocacy programs should be put forward, and influencer relations will then become somewhat of a shared priority for everybody.
Organizations that will succeed in retaining new recruits and in collaborating with the Generations Y and Z, will be those who know how to integrate them into their change-management process and appeal to their curiosity and natural creativity, notably for content creation and curation.
4. What role can influencers play in helping companies evolve in this direction? How should brands involve influencers?
The type of influencers, and the role they play in online and social media marketing strategies will always depend on the objectives and target audiences. Celebrity or "influenceratis" (social media celebrity) endorsement will never generate the same impact as a corporate ambassador program or a long term business relationship. Companies and organizations must clearly define their objectives first, and identify the type of influencers that will best fit the context at hand. How the relationship will develop depends on this choice.
In my opinion, a team’s social media training and mutually beneficial relationships developed with thought leaders will always generate a more effective and lasting impact for brands than endorsement campaigns. An influencer marketing activity ROI cannot be calculated solely on the basis of short-term financial results.
As I demonstrate in my book, properly and thoroughly measuring the ROI of an influencer marketing activity requires specific KPIs defined according to the context (as Traackr allows) and campaign objectives. These KPIs must notably evaluate the reach and resonance of messages, consumer engagement, as well as the current state of relations with influencers and ambassadors. Furthermore, in an integrated strategy, each intervention generates a different impact for each department involved and must therefore be part of a holistic assessment of the ROI.
5. Is it possible to say that social influence helps create a more responsible society? In particular with Generation X (1963-79) reaching decision-making positions and Generation Z (1995-2011) entering the labor market?
For a few years now, four generations have shared the same working environments. This is a new paradigm of today's digital society, which will accelerate, I believe, the social and digital transformation of organizations. At this level, Generation X, which has just taken over decision-making positions, also has a new responsibility to undertake.
Over the next few years, the last baby boomers will have retired, and those who remain will act as mentors for the new generations. And, since 2014, the first cohorts of Generation Z have been emerging in the labor market. In less than five years, digital natives will account for more than 75% of the active labor force and economic power.
There is no doubt that the influence new generations currently have on society will bring about positive changes. Over the years, the digital divide between generations has faded, and relations between companies and their clients have definitely changed. The present context is particularly conducive to the social and digital transformation of organizations. This is exactly what I advocate for in my book.
The future of influencer marketing
The digital era has led to the emergence of micro-generations with specific expectations and needs, and it is time for marketing to adapt to this new reality: this is what Influence 2.0 offers.
If, like me, you find Raymond’s approach fascinating, I warmly recommend you to read his book “Generation C - The Confluence Marketing at the Era of Connected Consumers” now available on FriesenPress Bookstore, Barnes&Noble and on Amazon.