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Last year I read a brilliant book by Mark Schaefer called “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins”.

It’s a great commentary on the challenges of marketing your brand in a rapidly changing digital landscape. There are many useful insights in the book but there was one in particular that really struck a chord with me, and it comes from landmark research that McKinsey conducted in 2009.

McKinsey’s study found that on average, two-thirds of the touchpoints during the evaluation phase of a purchase involve human-driven marketing activities like internet reviews, social media conversations, and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family, and online experts.

In other words, two-thirds of your marketing … is not your marketing.
It’s not controlled by you, it’s controlled by the customer.

Ten years later, McKinsey revisited their 2009 research and after studying more than 125,000 consumer decision journeys across 350 brands in 30 industries, they concluded that loyalty is more elusive than ever. Ninety percent of the categories researched showed no customer loyalty at all!

This is a big problem for marketers on a number of levels. The first is that if you’re not in control of two-thirds of your marketing, how do you invest your marketing dollars wisely to get the best possible return on investment? There’s a real danger that your marketing investment will be wasted.

The second problem with not controlling two-thirds of your marketing is that you have far less influence over how your brand is portrayed in the market. It’s a bit like being in a foreign country and relying on an interpreter to translate your message. It works okay as long as the translator is “on side” and doing their job properly. But it can go horribly wrong if they aren’t.

So, how can you take back control of your marketing?

You can’t. The days of brand messaging command and control are over.

Mark Schaefer says that you must change your thinking and approach.  You need to see markets not as controllable congregations but as conversations – fluid, dynamic environments that can’t be controlled, but can be influenced subtly. Marketing is no longer about broadcasting your brand stories to the marketplace. It’s about helping your customers and prospects carry your stories forward into the conversation. It’s more about seeding story sharing than traditional storytelling.

To do this, you need to find the hidden story gems in your business and share them. These need to be human-generated stories that celebrate your customers, staff and ideals. Stories told in a real, authentic human voice – not in the boring, banal, contrived language of business mission statements and corporate speak. Stories that inspire, entertain and create strong human connections and provoke an emotional reaction. Told well, these are the types of stories your customers will carry forward into the marketplace for us.

The video stories on North Face’s YouTube Channel are a great example of what I’m talking about. You can check it out here:

If you need help finding the right stories to carry your brand forward, I can help you.

You can also download our e-Book on story-driven content marketing.