Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2007

Digital Interactivity: Unanticipated Consequences for Markets, Marketing, and Consumers

by John A. Deighton and Leora Kornfeld


The digital interactive transformation in marketing is not unfolding, as many thought it would, on the model of direct marketing. That model anticipated that digital media using rich profiling data would intrude marketing messaging more deeply and more precisely into consumer lives than broadcast media had been able to do. But the technology that threatened intrusion is delivering seclusion. The transformation is unfolding on a model of consumer collaboration, in which consumers use digital media that lie beyond the control of marketers to communicate among one another, responding to marketing's intrusions by disseminating counterargument, information sharing, rebuttal, parody, reproach and, though more rarely, fandom. Globally the media of collaboration range from consumer review sites like Epinions and Trip Advisor, to collaborative networking sites like Bebo, Facebook, Orkut and Meetup, to trading sites like Craigslist and EBay, and user-generated content sites like YouTube, Cyworld, and blogs. This paper reviews five emerging paradigms governing marketing in the environment of these new media. It concludes that while meaning-making remains the central purpose of marketing communication, the shift from broadcasting to interaction within digital communities is moving the locus of control over meanings from marketer to consumer and rewarding more participatory, more sincere, and less directive marketing styles.

Keywords: Communication Intention and Meaning; Interactive Communication; Marketing Communications; Consumer Behavior; Social and Collaborative Networks; Online Technology; Search Technology;


Deighton, John A., and Leora Kornfeld. "Digital Interactivity: Unanticipated Consequences for Markets, Marketing, and Consumers." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-017, September 2007.