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Who among us has gone to a travel agency in the last year to buy a plane ticket? Who remembers looking for a job in the newspaper, consulting an encyclopaedia, developing a roll of film or renting a film in a video store? These changes are the result of the evolution of the consumer society and all that the emergence of the Internet entails. As Enric Jové, CEO of McCann Barcelona, explained in his talk at Graphispag, “this is not about business, it’s about brands, where you have to be disruptive in a completely different scenario to that of a few years ago”. We have picked up on his reflections on digitalisation and the relationship between brands and consumers.


If we compare Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 largest companies in 2000 and 2020, we see that only 10% were still in business. In other words, 90% of the largest companies in the early years of the 21st century disappeared within 20 years. There are many familiar examples of the changes brought about by the advent of the Internet and the adoption of a new social, economic and, ultimately, global paradigm.

At the beginning of the 21st century Google created AdWords, the start of what would be a new way of searching for information and jobs; in parallel, print job search ads started to decline. In 2002 Steve Jobs reinvented the music industry with the launch of the first iPod, so that music consumption became digital and it was no longer necessary to go to the record shop to buy music. In 3 years Sony goes from having a market share of 80% to a meagre 10% with the Walkmans of the so-called “on the go” music, away from the home, and the rest of the cake is left to Apple, and the decline of CD sales begins.

In 2004 LinkedIn was born, in 2005 Google Maps and in 2006 Spotify. Here again we have another turning point: Steve Jobs was trying to sell music, Spotify rents it to us. In 2007 the first smartphone was launched, in 2008 Airbnb was created (it bills the same as the Hilton chain, but with a business model that was totally disruptive at the time it was created and without investing in a single hotel), and in 2009 WhatsApp was founded. Until the advent of WhatsApp, phone companies had an important source of revenue from SMS. In 2 years the SMS industry plummeted.

Internet and technology, new paradigm

At this point, the first conclusion is that companies are now playing in a completely different scenario and with completely different rules than before. And in the light of how the last 20 years have evolved, planning 10 years ahead is unfeasible. It is useless in such a changing context.

The great transformation?: The Internet and technology has changed us, changed business, changed consumer relationships and changed the ways we create brands. It has basically involved a paradigm shift in how companies and brands relate to consumers. Businesses need to anticipate the consumer, they need to anticipate change and not just follow it. When you change the culture, you change the processes, and that’s where you change the marketing you did before. If you don’t change the tools, you can’t create change.

One of the pioneers of marketing in Spain, Josep Chias, said: “Markets are people“. In this sense and taken to the present day, understanding the consumer journey, how the consumer plans the buying process, allows us to change the way we do marketing, aware that content is important but context is also important, and that conversations with the customer are basic. Now it is more important to obtain engagement than to achieve brand awareness, and achieving visibility is more important than achieving awareness.


Marketing today also involves understanding how technology is used in marketing, not only to produce products, but also for other concepts related to all communication, different business models and new channels. In short, with the whole universe of the brand and how we build it.

There is no brand without a tag-line. This is what explains the corporate mission and vision, because business has moved from being a transaction of a sale for profit to going much further and focusing on the relationship with the consumer. Therefore, you must first work on the relationship and then move on to selling. Most companies born in the digital revolution have been built with a focus on relationships, and relationships are built through conversations, regardless of whether they are real or digital.

Companies start with the “what” but they have to start with the “why”, i.e. why they create a business. This is well explained by the Apple or Nike campaigns. Apple coined Think different in 1996 and has not changed it since because it is what defines it best. Their advertisements do not explain the product, they explain the company’s mission in a tag-line. Just do it goes far beyond sport.

Brands should not think about positioning, they have to think about wanting to be meaningful in people’s lives. People want to own an Apple smartphone and identify with the brand, which is not the case with Samsung, and that is built through relationships.

The media is not the answer, but neither is Google nor Facebook. It is true that there is a fragmentation of the media that makes it difficult to think about where to invest and how, because mass media no longer work. In traditional media the consumer was passive, in digital media, consumers play an active role. If the brand enters this scenario by generating interesting content for the consumer, its credibility will be enhanced.

Redefine how you approach consumers, think of it as a communication medium. There are brands like eBay that have understood this very well, because it is a brand and a media at the same time. We have to move from thinking about segments to thinking about audiences.

If campaigns have soul, if they touch the heart, brands will build long-term relationships. Brands cannot marry people on price or product.

This is not about monologues, it’s about communication. There are more consumers talking about brands than brands talking about themselves. Real life happens partly on social media and that’s where we also have to make relevant content, so we are closer to a publishing house than to an advertising company.

Technology is only technology for those who were born before it was invented. The technology itself is neutral, what changes is the use that brands make of that technology and how they take advantage of it as a company.

Brands and consumers, a new relationship


Beyond the size of the company or how much it invests in advertising and communication, we need to think about disruptive business models and anticipate the needs and tastes of an increasingly empowered consumer thanks to smartphones and social networks.

There has been a paradigm shift in the music world. We used to go to concerts to listen to them, to enjoy them, today many people go to record them, to take photos and upload them on the networks. The music industry collapsed because it initially banned people from recording videos at concerts, when really the best way to promote a concert is to let people record videos and show how much fun they are having. When he understood this, the music industry stopped promoting concerts because it was the people themselves who publicised them.

QR codes have become relevant since the Covid crisis because they take us to a place that interests us and where we can retrieve information that is useful to us at that moment. This did not happen before, as for example at Zara the QR code would send me to the website, when I was probably already in the shop. If that same QR Code had generated a discount code for me to use in the next few minutes, the consumer experience would have been very different.

Another disruptive use of technology is with the Hellmann’s brand: thanks to the barcode on the mayonnaise jar, and depending on the other products and food that the consumer had in their shopping basket at the supermarket, they were given a shopping receipt at the checkout where they were offered a recipe using the mayonnaise and the other products they had bought.

Technology also allows strengthening and building the relationship with the consumer. In the KLM airline’s social media campaign, the customer chose the city they were going to travel to with the airline, sent the link to their friends so that those who knew the destination could make recommendations, points of interest that KLM put on a personalised map and gave it to the customer free of charge. A way to create a different kind of trip based on social recommendations and a contribution of value from the airline.

We also have cases of a brand’s misuse of communication when engaging with its customers. Another airline, in this case United Airlines, abruptly removed a passenger from one of its flights because, according to the company, he had falsified his boarding pass – something that was later proven to be untrue. Before the passenger was kicked off the plane, images of other travellers were already posted on various social networks; the company lost 10% of its market capitalisation on the same day.

In the case of an action carried out by C&A, the brand worked on strengthening the relationship with the consumer.  At the entrance of one of the C&A shops, a collection of clothes hangers was placed with a number corresponding to the number of likes the different garments had received on the website.  In this way, when a customer entered the shop, he could see on each rack how many likes that garment had and, therefore, he knew if the garment was liked and worn by many people or the other way around.

What is the most significant change with this type of action? The consumer experience and the way brands relate to consumers.

Cristina Benavides, Graphispag partner