At last week’s Community 2.0 conference, an interesting discussion developed after John Hagel’s keynote address, in which he said that customers do not want 1:1 marketing, but that they instead want to be put in touch with many connections and resources.
In a way, that is like describing marketing evolution from the one->to->many, to the 1<->to<->1 to the many<->to<->one, with the vendor having the opportunity to facilitate the connections between customers and other people and resources – also called community building. Despite a wave of excitement about the potential of 1to1 marketing in the 90’s, popularized by the success of the One to One books by Rogers and Peppers, one attendee argued that we were never able to successfully achieve 1to1 and that therefore many-to-one may be an elusive goal as well.
But is this true? Is this truly an evolutionary process in which we cannot skip a step until the previous one is complete? Or did we missread the need for many-to-one as the need for one-to-one and launched on another marketing fad that never materialized? Could community-based marketing be like that as well?
It could be argued that this time we are dealing with the genuine article – and that some companies have known that for a very long time – skipping the 1to1 marketing wave all together in favor of many<->to<->one, and in the process reaping tremendous competitive advantages (note the bi-directionality of the arrows – a key ingredient to make it work!).
What do you think? Community-based marketing: another fad or a real competitive differentiator?