We hear this all the time, yet very few marketing campaigns actually demonstrate anything approaching this. We refer to consumers as targets and label them acquisitions when they do what we ask. Online, a combination of a banner and a skyscraper is typically dubbed a roadblock. Skywriters refer to beachgoers in crowded spots like Rio de Janeiro or Fort Lauderdale, FL, as captive eyeballs as there isn't enough room on the beach to roll over; you pretty much have to look up! Ditto for theatrical ads. Doesn't sound to me like consumers are really considered to be in control.

But they are. Foremost among the indicators is consumers' increasing sophistication, whether in business or retail, when it comes to researching and validating information for themselves. Beginning in the early '90s with what was called the "self-reliance movement," people have been looking to answer for themselves questions such as, "What should I buy today?" The Internet, in particular the connection between people and information about potential purchases, hugely accelerated this notion of self-reliance.

Amazon.com capitalized on this when it built reviews, and reviews of the reviewers. Platforms such as Amazon now firmly place the consumer in control. They've given rise to marketing communities that form a counterpart to the social communities that get all the press. These market-centric communities are links between people interested in a product; people who would otherwise never have met helping each make smarter purchases. Marketing platforms such as Amazon are important because they break barriers and allow truly diverse information to flow between people who normally would never have been connected, much less conversed.

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