Vodka and Breakfast Cereal: Why the Decision Maker Isn’t Always Boss

Decision makers, decision makers, decision makers. Should they always be the priority when developing marketing strategy? It’s tempting for marketers to pour all of our heart and soul (or time and money, depending on who you talk to) into reaching the decision maker. But it’s important that we show some love to the influencers, too.

By definition, the decision maker makes the final call on purchasing, whether that’s hiring agencies or buying raw materials. The influencer usually reports to the decision maker, providing useful data, intelligence and input. This goes for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer. The decision maker and influencer roles remain the same no matter what the product or service.

More than you think, the influencer can really control the decision. Sounds counterintuitive, right? In today’s marketing environment, influencers come in many forms and through many platforms. Maybe they report to the decision maker on the org chart or maybe they are behind the counter at the store, but most commonly, they are on social media behind fun profiles and with strong opinions. In the 1980s, marketing execs began formalizing the use of influencers in their marketing strategy, and today, those marketers are using more clever ways to reach this highly coveted audience.

For those who were lucky enough to grow up in the ’80s, you probably remember the delicious sugary breakfast cereals that our moms — the decision makers — would steer us clear of each time we went to the store. The proliferation of children’s programming and cable television was creating more avenues to reach kids — the influencers. Cereal companies took advantage of Nickelodeon, G.I. Joe and She-Ra to launch another offensive. They saw a new way to disrupt decision-making patterns. They flooded spots for Count Chocula and Cookie Crisp into commercial breaks between Voltron battling alien menaces and the Smurfs narrowly escaping Gargamel. This was because General Mills broke the code — they figured out that, eventually, to get some peace and quiet, millions of decisions makers (aka moms) would cave and trade sugar intake for a little sanity.

Today, companies are finding even more creative ways to target different types of influencers. Skyy vodka launched a campaign not too long ago that buddies up to mixologists all over North America, asking the audience (social consumers) to not forget to tip their bartenders — something that happens all too often and stems from a lack of appreciation for their hard work. Skyy’s marketing team capitalized on their broadcast advertising time to run a PSA for some of their most valuable influencers — the bartenders pouring, mixing and recommending drinks to their patrons. And that will undoubtedly translate to big dollar signs for Skyy.

Today, those peer recommendations play a huge role in terms of influencing decision makers. When faced with a buying decision, customers are doing their homework. 89% of buyers have done their research before making the decision to purchase, and 62% are searching Facebook for information beforehand as well. That means they are looking elsewhere — typically on social media — before coming to you to make the transaction.

How do you get in front of them before you know they are looking? The answer is influencers. Forbes supports these influencer efforts, saying social media has fundamentally changed the balance of power between customers and brands because it enables peer recommendations to play a much greater role in purchasing decisions. Brands must now rely on influencers to help move their potential buyer through the sales cycle. That means that they have to be part of the voice of customer equation.

In short, it’s important to keep an eye on your primary targets — the decision makers and end-users for your product/service. But in today’s world, which is highly influenced by other factors and audiences, influencers can make or break your brand. Keep influencers in your purview and don’t be afraid to explore opportunities to build them into your marketing efforts. It will pay off.

By Kelly Russell, Account Supervisor, and Matt Read, Senior Business Development Manager