Is Your Brand Ready for the Social Shopper?

If we've learned anything in the last few years, it's that the old marketing model is broken. We've witnessed the collapse of our advertising industrial complex, and we've watched shoppers pull out of our stores and retreat to their financial fallout shelters.

But despite the havoc, there is hope for battle-scarred brands. In the aftermath of the "shop-ocalypse," we're seeing the dawn of a strange new marketing partner—the social shopper. She has adapted to the alien economic landscape and emerged with new values, new behaviors, new tools, and, most important, new social systems.

This shopper, in all of her forms (consumer, buyer, user, loyal customer), is telling business she's through with top-down marketing relationships. Her new world order is bottom up, inside out, and sideways. And the marketer is no longer master of mass consumption.

A New Day in Marketing

As a result of this seismic shift in influence, marketers are just now learning what management scholars have known about motivation for decades—that people respond more favorably to intrinsic rewards than extrinsic rewards. For many brands, however, that kind of talk is heresy—against nature, against culture, against history.

Perhaps, then, it's time to take a serious look at a classic theory of human motivation that many business schools teach, but few businesses practice.

Nearly 40 years ago, Douglas McGregor's The Human Side of Enterprise introduced business to two different theories on worker motivation. The first, Theory X, assumes that people inherently dislike work and try to avoid it when possible. The other, Theory Y, asserts that people can, under the right conditions, enjoy work just as they enjoy play.

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Ethan Whitehill is the CEO of Two West, Inc.