In an age of social media, many of the positive attributes of advertising become less relevant.

If your product is so good and so useful, why do you have to advertise it so much? If your service is so fantastic won’t your customers notice and tell others through social media? If you’re so customer-centric why do you have to keep marketing and advertising the fact that you’re so customer-centric?

For many old-model organizations, marketing and advertising are tools by which you shift perception and distort reality. Under this logic, if you don’t treat your customers well you need to more heavily advertise that you love your customers and that you really care about them. Thus, marketing and advertising is rarely about presenting who you actually are, but rather about painting a pretty picture of who you want your customers to think you are.

Whether marketers and advertisers like it or not, that model is being transformed. It is not being transformed by organizations, but rather by customers who are sick of being told lies and half-truths.

Every day we see signs of the change. “The inundation of irrelevant communications and junk mail is pushing European consumer loyalty to breaking point with the majority (84 percent) ready to take action against brands,” according to new research commissioned by Ricoh Europe. “Irrelevant communications, both online and paper-based, are a huge bug-bear for more than two-thirds of consumers in Europe, who consider a quarter of what they receive to be junk. Six-in-ten consumers even see junk mail as more frustrating than their commute to work.”

Customers are ever more frustrated by companies trying to get their attention through increasingly intrusive and deceptive advertising (think native advertising). What maddens customers even more is that once they have actually bought something from an organization they are likely to be ignored. Worse, the more loyal they are to a brand the more they will be exploited with higher prices.

Learning Opportunities

A report published in February 2016 by Gallup stated that, “B2B companies across all industries are at risk of being replaced — not because of their products or prices, but because they are failing their customers.”

Companies are failing customers because at the heart of marketing and advertising is a culture that feels it is at war. It is constantly on campaign, fighting battles to win new customers. Once won, these customers are treated as bounty, as conquered subjects to be exploited, whose ongoing needs are irrelevant.

The irony of all this is that right now marketing and advertising have never had it so good. That’s because as traditional marketing and advertising lose effectiveness, the spend goes up just to maintain things at the same level. But that can’t keep going. At a certain point, the old-model will collapse.

Digital transformation is about organizing around the current customer. It is about putting the customer at the center of the universe. Technology is just the means. A customer-centric culture is the end.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.