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3 Signs of Customer-Centric Thinking in Traditional Advertising

When it comes to pervasive buzzwords, Connections 2013 had a hands-down winner: “customer-centric.”

Even if you missed it splayed across the enormous screens (screens large enough to merit their own Twitter handle, mind you), scattered throughout client success story videos, or in various breakout sessions, it was impossible to ignore this central theme when Marc Benioff took the stage to welcome attendees to the fireside chat:

“Every organization, every company across the line, needs to go from a relatively anonymous relationship to a 1-to-1 relationship with the customer. They need to think, ‘how do I connect with my customer in a whole new way?’…No industry is exempt from this transformation.”

Benioff went on to describe his vision for the future of the customer-centric company and the necessity of connected products (a sentiment that was echoed in Scott Dorsey’s welcome speech), saying, “We’re going to want to know what you want, where you want to go in life…we’re going to have one image of the customer and we’re going to come to you.”

And while this vision of a seamlessly personalized customer experience is revolutionizing the marketing industry, signs of a marked shift in emphasis towards the customer can be seen in more traditional advertising as well, regardless of industry. Let’s take a look at three advertisements from vastly different industries where advertisers are shifting away from an emphasis on the actual product and more towards the consumer:


Notice any change in car ads lately? Gone are the days of long, sweeping camera angles of glossy dashboards and steering wheels — so much so that, for several 2013 car commercials, you may not even realize that you’re watching a car commercial until a familiar logo pops up on the screen. Consider the Austin Mini Cooper commercial below. The features of the car take a backseat (no pun intended) to the vision of what the customer’s life might look like while driving the car.

Cleaning Products

Would you rather watch an animated graphic of dirt being wiped from a surface, or an adorable elderly couple waltzing around their kitchen? Yeah, us too. Procter & Gamble hit the nail on the head with their ad, “The Swiffer Effect,” featuring a 90-year-old couple and their experience with Swiffer products. The ad created so much buzz that a quick search of “Swiffer” immediately yields results such as “the Swiffer couple” and “Swiffer Morty,” and the couple was featured on The Today Show.


Not surprisingly, technology companies have been at the forefront of this movement towards a more customer-focused, storytelling approach to marketing products, and companies like Google and Apple have long been using ads like the one below to connect with their customers on a human level:

The bottom line is this: as consumers take control of the buyer’s cycle, they expect a different relationship with the companies they buy from. Companies must become more humanized, and shift their focus towards forming personal, 1-to-1 relationships with their customers—and this shift must occur across the board, in every industry and in every aspect of marketing and advertising.

What are some other examples of a this shift towards an emphasis on the customer in traditional advertising?