July 18, 2012

The Death of the Trusted Advisor

Rest in peace, TA. You had a good run of it.

From the beginning of commerce, 11,000 years ago last Thursday, buying decisions have been heavily influenced by the counsel of a Trusted Advisor. Who makes the best fist ax? Is it really worth 2 coconuts? A TA with experience, wisdom or access to data would guide a buyer.

Fast forward to 20 years ago, and the structure of decision-making in considered purchases hadn’t changed much. As we have pointed out before, the response to “here’s a lawyer/sports car/breakfast cereal/fist ax maker perfect for you” was “Gee, thanks.”

This changed radically as a consequence of the information explosion. The answer today is, “Gee, thanks. I’ll check it out.” The TA may still offer Advice, but it’s no longer automatically Trusted. The buying decision has gotten much more complex, less influenced by outbound messaging, more reliant on brand findability. The marketing world turned upside down, and continues to spin.

Must your brand adapt? Certainly. Messaging must change. Budgets must change. Media choices must change. Prospects must be better understood. Dialog must replace sermons. New rules, new tools.

“Survival of the fittest” is widely misunderstood. “Fittest” does not mean biggest or smartest or strongest. It means the species (or, um, organization) most able to adapt to changes.