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Talking to the Empowered Consumer\ud Dealing with the Shift of Power

By Klaus Oestreicher


The concept of the empowered consumer cannot be considered as a field of exact scientific\ud research yet. Nevertheless, it has become part of scholars’ interest and gains more and more\ud importance in the research of organisational relationships with customers. It is suggested that\ud two influencing criteria are especially at the forefront: The emergence of the Internet, which\ud effected that barriers to collect and to disseminate information across boundaries were\ud decisively reduced. As a consequence consumers could organise globally and collect and\ud exchange information and experiences about organisations and their products. Furthermore,\ud flexible interactivity between companies and consumers, but particularly from consumers to\ud consumers enable direct interaction changing many previously established rules of doing\ud business. Due to these new opportunities new business models developed and the proposition\ud is that intangible values such as reputation gained even more importance and influence\ud tangible outcomes.\ud Suggestions are that 1.), this concept links communication, corporate behaviour and\ud legitimacy of activities influencing reputation as a driver of value. 2.), reputation as a\ud corporate asset can be managed but it is beyond the pure control of an organisation. 3.),\ud reputation is part of public perception, which an organisation has to build, maintain and\ud expand depending on communicative abilities and willingness to accept consumers as a centre\ud of power. The following discussion will present Grunig et al.’s communication model\ud explaining changed organisational challenges. It is put forward as a framework for marketing\ud for times in which online opportunities added to the earlier b2b and b2c models c2c and P2P\ud considerations and architectures.\ud The annual studies of the market research institute puls undertaking regular representative\ud research among German consumers since November 2005 will present evidence for the\ud relationship of improved prices, which may be achieved, and the perception a firm possesses.\ud This paper deals mostly with German examples and data, but the hypothesis is that a) the\ud general situation in other Western countries is alike, but needs b) specific additional research,\ud since cultural differences are expected to have a considerable influence, especially when\ud criteria such as individualist and collectivist organisation of society and high and low context\ud communication styles are involved. Hence, the results of the same study in different countries\ud are therefore expected to present some variation.\ud Additionally, the Cluetrain Manifesto challenges corporate behaviour of those companies still\ud believing to have the ability to control information disseminated by and written about it.\ud Examples provided will support the hypothesis that powerful consumers may have significant\ud impact on organisational behaviour, decision-making and outcomes.\ud Keywords: Empowered Consumer Concept, Symmetric Two-way communication,\ud Reputation, c2c, P2

Topics: HC
Year: 2009
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