The end of control. How brands are handing marketing over to the customers

Mark Schaefer
5 min readFeb 15, 2024

One of the primary conclusions of my book Marketing Rebellion is that we are in a new era where the sales funnel is gone, customer loyalty is undependable, and the customer is the marketer. I describe this as The Third Rebellion, characterized by the end of control over the consumer.

In the past, a “brand” is what we told our consumers. Today, a brand is what our customers are telling each other.

Most of our marketing is occurring without us. The new challenge for a company is to be invited to those organic conversations.

After immersing myself in research on this topic over the past two years, I can’t help but begin to view the marketing revolution through this lens. Here are three current case studies I noticed that illustrate the radical new approaches needed to win in today’s business environment.

End of control: The customer is the marketer

This headline on MarketingDive grabbed my attention: “American Eagle hands creative control to Gen Zers for spring campaign.” Highlights:

  • American Eagle unveiled its new spring campaign, which was photographed, styled and creatively directed by 10 Gen Z “cast members.”
  • The cast members were…



Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!