Intense One Percenters Remake Marketing

October 13, 2009


Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for To see the original, go to

For generations, marketing has been about mass appeal. The Internet has changed that, as it’s changed so many aspects of our lives.

Today, marketing is increasingly falling sway to the One Percenters. That’s the group of the most intensely engaged consumers, so dubbed because surveys have consistently shown that only about 1 percent of Internet users will actually become involved in creating original content.

Smart marketers realize that if they can get that core group involved with their brands, the One Percenters will actually serve as citizen marketers, delivering brand messages with a genuine passion that can sway other, not-so-involved consumers.

I was fortunate to hear two of today’s foremost theorists on this phenomenon speak at last week’s Summit, sponsored by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association.

Jackie Huba and Seth Godin have both written extensively about the move away from mass marketing to a more focused, one-to-one approach. It’s a tough shift in thought for many marketers to make.

Even the thirtysomethings in our field grew up in a mass-oriented world: Ads on TV and in traditional print media were the dominant way to deliver a marketing message. Email didn’t exist, and direct mail– though a powerful tool even then– was viewed as something of a fringe practice.

Most important, all communication was one-way; the consumer had no voice.

Now the consumer has a megaphone with all-encompassing reach– it’s called the World Wide Web. And those One Percenters are ready to make their views heard.

In her keynote speech at the MIMA Summit, Huba recounted how a consumer revolt against a Motrin ad began with a single tweet on Twitter, leading to a rapid attack by the “Motrin Moms” and an embarrassing and abject apology by Motrin manufacturer McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

Personally, I think the Motrin Moms overreacted to what was an edgy, whimsical ad. But my view doesn’t matter– what matters is that social media allowed these consumers, these One Percenters, to make their views heard.

The choice for marketers, then, is like the one faced by President Lyndon Johnson when an aide asked him how they should handle legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Said LBJ: “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Today’s smart marketers will find a way to bring the One Percenters inside the tent.