CUSTOMER loyalty is “over” as consumers rebel against the way businesses have marketed to them for generations, a top American author told an audience in Bournemouth.

Mark Schaefer, author of The Marketing Rebellion, argued that brands were finding it ever harder to get the attention of customers – and that “the most human company wins”.

Mr Schaefer also told how Bournemouth was becoming known internationally as word spread about its creative and marketing scene.

His visit was hosted by local marketer Mark Masters, whose You Are the Media Conference takes place at Boscombe’s Shelley Theatre next week.

Mr Schaefer told how the book was inspired by the experience of leading marketers with big budgets telling him that “the marketing just wasn’t working like it used to”.

“The tipping point for me was when I was invited to a CMO (chief marketing officers) conference,” he said.

“These were people from big brands and we went around the table and they were all talking about what was making them stay up at night, what was making them worried.

“Every one of them said it was ‘because we are so far behind’.

“My original hypothesis, when I started writing the book, was that this was about ‘How do we keep up with technology?’

“Last summer, I was immersed in the research and I discovered I was wrong and I had to rewrite the book. I felt I was wrong because I saw this research that was telling me that the only not only had the technology moved away from us, there was something more profound that happened. Our customers were moving away from us.”

He told the audience that “loyalty is over” and that customers had been rebelling against “companies trying to control them for 100 years”.

“The customer is the marketing department. That’s what people believe. That’s where they’re getting their information. They don’t want to be controlled,” he said.

“Two-thirds of your marketing is occurring without you.”

Technology was allowing people to “self-organise into like-minded islands”, he said, who talked about brands away from the marketing professionals.

“Your brand is no longer what you tell the customer it is. It’s what customers tell each other it is,” he said.

Mr Schaefer was a student of Peter Drucker, the consultant and academic who has bene called the founder of modern management thinking. The event, at Urban Reef in Boscombe, saw him interviewed by Bournemouth business adviser Nick Hixson, who is one of only four Drucker Associates in Europe.

Mr Schaefer said working with Dr Drucker was “the great honour of my career and the most impactful part of my career”.

He said the experience had taught him that consultants should ask the right questions. “The best leaders don’t have the right answers, they have the right questions,” he said.

Mr Schaefer told the Daily Echo that Mark Masters’ You Are the Media conference was helping spread the word about Bournemouth across the Atlantic. “People want to come to this conference and it can’t help but get bigger because he’s doing such a great job. He’s making people feel so welcome,” he added.