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To celebrate the University of British Columbia’s centennial, we asked UBC Sauder professors to tell us about imminent changes in business that will transform our daily lives. From the green economy to internet security we asked them, “What’s next?”

 

Who:

Katherine White, professor and division chair of marketing and behavioural science at the UBC Sauder School of Business. White is a leading expert on prosocial consumption and social marketing, and in 2016, was named one of the top five marketing researchers in the world by the American Marketing Association.

What's Now:

According to White, the traditional view of marketing is like a funnel, where the wide end represents everyone who might want your brand, and the narrow end is the far smaller number who actually buy. Historically, marketers have mostly been in touch with consumers at the beginning and the end of that funnel. But now, brands are communicating with customers at more points in their “decision journey” as they compare products and seek advice from friends and other consumers online.

They’re even in touch after customers have made their choice; and they’re forming online communities around particular products, from computers to Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“Are people happy? Are they telling everybody? Marketers are seeing who is happy with the product, and they keep reminding them what a great purchase they’ve made,” says White. “And now that we have the ability to interact with like-minded consumers, there are more chances for the company to connect with them.”

Katherine White

What's Next:

White predicts that marketers will harness “the power of the crowd,” and that we’ll see more social buying — companies like Groupon and LivingSocial that allow large groups of consumers to access deals. More companies will also get customers involved by asking them to generate product ideas and crowd-sourced advertisements.

White also expects there will be more marketing that capitalizes on what people are talking about; for example, during a Super Bowl power outage in 2013, Oreo generated a real-time ad with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark” and posted it to Twitter, where it garnered over 10,000 retweets in an hour.

Of course, without adequate screening systems, soliciting consumer participation can backfire, like when cheeky participants in a Walmart contest used the hashtag #ExilePitbull to send globetrotting DJ Pitbull to a store in remote Kodiak, Alaska rather than a major urban centre. Likewise, brands encouraging consumers to create online content should manage the process in a way that avoids unexpected outcomes.

“The tricky thing is there’s a push to do it quickly. So if people are talking about it right now you want to get it out right now,” says White, who adds that advertisers have to be especially creative to strike just the right tone. “You also want to make sure it’s appropriate.”

White says that in the distant future, we could see marketers connecting with consumers using other technologies — through virtual reality for example — but in the near term, companies will get increasingly inventive with how they reach, keep and involve potential customers.

“One of the things we’ll see more of is storytelling, because it resonates with us. Things that are emotional, that tug on our heartstrings, or things that are novel or funny,” says White. “It’s difficult to produce content that is fun and novel, so I think this pushes marketers to be more creative with their content and their conversations with consumers.”