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When advertising pioneer David Ogilvy made this now-famous remark, the relationship between companies and consumers was in the midst of a revolution. Specifically, the relationship was the revolution – the idea that personalized and powerful bonds connected people and the businesses that served them.
In just a few short decades, mass media channels, industrialized production processes, disposable income and advances in transportation had changed everything. Instead of buying what they needed from what was available nearby, American consumers began purchasing what they wanted from whomever they chose. As a result, brands took shape and began speaking directly to consumers, initiating relationships and competing for sales.
What Ogilvy could not have known in 1963 was how fast that dynamic would keep changing. The rise of the Internet and the perpetually connected world it created has changed the dynamic yet again – the relationship between consumer and company is now a true two-way conversation. No longer the passive recipients of mass market, interruption advertising, consumers demand personalized messages that are specific to their preferences, needs and circumstances.
In the following pages, this paper will consider the history of consumer engagement and define it in its present context. It will explore the opportunities, challenges and key considerations facing any modern company attempting to effectively interact with customers and prospects. Finally, it will focus on the critical first step towards effective engagement in the digital age: preference management, the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication.
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