Why Today’s Customers Are Your Company’s Marketers

Mark Schaefer is a globally recognized blogger, author, speaker, and educator with one of the top marketing blogs in the world. He is the Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, specializing in marketing strategy and social media workshops for clients and start-ups around the world such as Adidas, Dell, AT&T, the air force, and the UK government.

In his new book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, Mark explains that marketers have been stuck in their marketing and lost track of their customers along the way. His book is a wake-up call to help people understand shifting consumer trends. Mark shares research and insights to help companies adapt and succeed in a rapidly changing business environment.

Embrace A Human-Centered Marketing Approach

It can be overwhelming to think about how you make the shift from broadcasting and advertising to a more human-centered approach. An important first step is to think about ourselves as customers and what we love and hate. We need to look at our own marketing and we need to stop doing what people hate.

Medicine uses technology to extend our lives, physics uses technology to look into the beginnings of the universe, but, in marketing, we use technology to find new ways to annoy people. We need to stop because we are in a rebellion and the customers are pushing back.

Mark Schaefer“We have to embrace a human-centered approach to marketing,” says Mark. “We have no choice because the customer always wins.”


Align with The Values of Your Customers

Loyalty is in decline. A McKinsey study shows that across 80 industries, 87 percent of our customers shop around. Only 13 percent of our customers are still loyal to us.

For those customers that are still loyal to us, we need to cherish them, know them by name, and treat them like they are special. Give them the tools to carry your story forward — because today, the customer is the marketer.

Research also shows that the only thing connecting customers to companies and brands is shared values. Take Nike for example, and their bold move with an advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. They did their research and recognized they needed to align with the values of their customers and take that risk. That’s what wins loyalty today.

Colin Kaepernick Nike


Talk to Your Customers

The best way to find out what your customers want is to get out there and talk to them. In Mark’s book, he tells a story about Martin Lindstrom, a marketing anthropologist who gave a speech to 5,000 marketers in New York. He asked how many of them had had a face-to-face discussion with one of their customers in the last year. Out of 5,000 people, only 19 raised their hands.

That’s one of the reasons we need to rethink our marketing practices and how we interact with our customers. We have become obsessed with technology and we’re over-automating things that shouldn’t be automated. We’re addicted to dashboards and looking for a “marketing easy button” that’s not there. Instead, we need to talk to our customers because the truth is out there. We won’t distill any wisdom from our dashboards. We see the same data our competitors are seeing. We need to get out and talk to customers and live in their world.

Connect with Your Customers Authentically

One of the most human companies that are perfecting how to connect with their audience authentically is Glossier. Glossier is a personal brand about beauty and skincare started by a blogger, Emily Weiss, who was hearing from her readers about all the things they hated about the industry. Readers told her they wanted to buy from a skincare company that is their friend and doesn’t talk down to them. So, she built her own company to give her readers what they were asking for.



Emily understands that the customers are the marketers and she is in the business of content marketing. Every time she sends out one of her products, she considers it a piece of content to share. The packaging is wrapped in pink bubble wrap, a perfect background for Instagram. She sends out stickers and jumps into conversations herself. 100 percent of her sales come from word-of-mouth marketing. The people on her website are her customers. She makes her customers the heroes of the stories she posts. It’s not about ‘her’ why — it’s about ‘their’ why.

Win Your Customers’ Loyalty

Companies are having a hard time winning their customers’ loyalty because we have a belonging crisis in our world today. We think we are connected and a click away from a friend, but the research shows the more time we spend on social media and the internet, the lonelier and more isolated we are.

As a result, companies are recognizing there’s an opportunity to help people belong. If you look at companies like Harley Davidson, they make people feel like they belong. Harley Davidson’s merchandise, online communities, and clubs are just a few examples of how the brand has created a sense of love and belonging among riding enthusiasts.

Another example is Yeti, a company that sells ice coolers. People are wearing the Yeti name on their hats and shirts. It’s an ice cooler, but people want to belong because the company stands for everything good about the outdoors.

Loyalty is about creating this meaning and an authentic community where you stand with your customers. Today, customers are not going to be loyal to you until they see you are loyal to them.

“Companies that will be successful are those that are willing to stand with customers even when things are tough, and not many big companies are willing to do that.”

Adopt A New Mindset

The most powerful thing you can do is adopt a new mindset. The customer is the marketer and we have to help the customer to do our job. A brand used to be what we told our customers it was. Today, a brand is what customers tell each other it is. That is a dramatic change in the way we need to approach our stories and our customers.

We can’t buy our way into conversations like we used to, we have to earn our way in. We have to be invited into those conversations. Create value and nurture those human connections with your customers and you’ll win them over.

“It will take a lot of leadership, courage and a mindset shift for companies to succeed in the world today.”