The Evolution of Power: Marketer vs. Machine

The Evolution of Power: Marketer vs. Machine

One of the most frequent comments we get in marketing is that, because of the pervasiveness of access to brands, consumers are in control and brands must adapt to that power shift. Consumers are less in control than they once were, and the marketers who want to influence purchases must adapt again. At various times in history, the supply chain wielded the power and thereby concentrated wealth in this country into the pockets of those in powerful positions. Power shifted again to people with names like Ford and Wrigley, the manufacturers. What is influencing what you see, how you select items, how you feel about brands and, ultimately, what you buy? The power of the machines. Imagine unwinding your preferences on Netflix, recommended products on Amazon, your search history on Google, your travel patterns consumed by airlines, your departure and arrival patterns on your Nest, your refrigerator inventory -- and the list goes on. But, as a brand that wants to be included in a machine’s consideration for a particular consumer, you’re going to have to learn how to make or break machine’s habits by getting adept at making people want to go through the effort to make a change. If you sell milk, and want a consumer to switch to your brand, you have to convince them to make the change. Then, the machine will build on that habit and likely suggest and scale to other products similarly because of that particular preference.

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Algorithms anticipate our needs and desires so well that it is an open question if consumers are really making their own decisions or just feel as though they are.

The Evolution of Power: Marketer vs. Machine

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One of the most frequent comments we get in marketing is that, because of the pervasiveness of access to brands, consumers are in control and brands must adapt to that power shift.

If marketers are just now shifting to the world where consumers have the power, they may be reacting to something that is already beginning to pass. We are embarking on a new era in the supply chain where the power, and thereby the opportunity, is shifting again. Consumers are less in control than they once were, and the marketers who want to influence purchases must adapt again.

Related: The Scariest Thing About AI Is the Competitive Disadvantage of Being Slow to Adapt

Mobility of power.

As fast as intermediation became a way to connect those who sell with the consumers who buy, disintermediation has ever since been a perpetual threat to middlemen. Brands at every point in the process scramble to adapt to shifts in power, match demand, realign costs and defeat competitors.

At various times in history, the supply chain wielded the power and thereby concentrated wealth in this country into the pockets of those in powerful positions. It isn’t hard to see where that wealth accumulated. Just look at the names on buildings, universities, and even today’s lists of wealthy people.

A brief history of the industry.

In the beginning, those who dug raw materials out of the ground had the power. Then, steel barons. They are household names — Rockefeller, Carnegie. From there, logistics enabled raw materials to get to the people who made things, including the railroads. These were names like Vanderbilt. Financiers, such as JP Morgan, enabled investment and innovation throughout the supply chain; power shifts began to accelerate.

Then, emboldened innovators changed how things, like cars, are made. Assembly lines were introduced so we could manufacture at scale. Power shifted again to people with names like Ford and Wrigley, the manufacturers.

Then, as the country broadened and manufacturers needed their products to reach the corners of our country, power transitioned to the distributors who could deliver to mom‑and‑pop shops across the country. Prohibition disappeared. The National Automotive Dealers Association reemerged.

Consolidating the mom‑and‑pop general stores shifted power to those who could purchase at scale. The catalog company Sears emerged, and that gave way to the most powerful retailer in the world — Walmart. Fast track to today. Nearly that entire family is on the Forbes list of wealthiest people.

Then emerged the internet. Transactions and information…

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