Three Modes of User Communication

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Mode 1: Brand to Consumer

This involves a one-way, brand-centric message, where brands “push context” to consumers. For example, a television commercial takes consumers away from the program they are watching and makes them consider buying a new product. Often referred to as traditional advertising, the goal is having consumers believe the brand message.

Mode 2: Brand-Consumer Conversation

Brands speak directly to consumers and wait for a response. For example, an offer is e-mailed to consumers with a specific call to action — calling a phone number or visiting a website. Also known as direct marketing, the brand communication gives the user a reason to reply.

Mode 3: Consumer to Consumer with Brand as Enabler

In a consumer-centric conversation, the consumer dictates when, where and how they interact with brands. Consumers speak to each other and control the conversation, while brands merely have an opportunity to contribute within the space. For example, consumers use social networks to discuss a new product. The brand can add to the discussion, but cannot define it. Ideally, social media creates consumer advocates that share brand praise on their own. 

Traditional advertising agencies focus on brand-centric methods (modes 1 and 2), but the consumer-centric space (mode 3) has grown exponentially in recent years. It now equals and will soon exceed the brand-centric space, so brands are reshaping how they interact with consumers.                     

While traditional modes of communication offer predictable ROI, consumer-centric methods benefit from greater potential ROI. Mode 3 also provides a unique source of consumer data involving full and independent qualitative feedback. A strong promotional campaign will feature elements of all three modes, but the starting mode determines the core strategy and implementation.

It’s important to note changing a brand to make it fit within the social space is not necessary. Instead, determine what gives consumers a reason to have a dialogue with the brand. Then provide the means and impetus for consumers to become brand advocates and share with others.

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About the Author
Juan Fernando Santos has been a force behind many digital firsts, including the first worldwide webcast. He was also the creative spark for the website, once the fastest-growing virtual world ever. Mr. Santos leads creative engagements at WPP’s Studiocom agency. In this role, he develops and implements promotional ideas for Fortune 500 brands. Juan's work shows a keen understanding of the relationship between social behavior and digital technology.

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