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Consumer created communication- shallow tactic or deep strategy?

April 7, 2006

The newswires and blogosphere are abuzz with brand after brand jumping headlong into the race to develop consumer created communication. There are web-based competitions, the chance to fill in the blanks on television commercials and even the chance to submit your own spot. Dozens of brands are asking their consumers to help them participate in the marketing process.

Brands are jumping on the bandwagon and try to capitalize on the opportunity that is being driven by advances in technology that have made it so much easier for people to create and refine their own creative content.

There are two ways of looking at this:

1. Seize the moment and use the opportunity, but it’s a tactic, not a strategy

2. Think about the engagement of consumers in the marketing process, as a strategy, not a tactic.

How does the brand permanently bring the consumer closer to the marketing process?

Is it really an opportunity to close the huge gap that exists between consumers and corporations?

The route taken by brands here will be key, it will define those brands that genuinely believe that the C21st is all about enabling the consumer to become more integrated in the business process and those tha still operating with the old industrial mindset of “them and us”.

The idea of asking the consumer to contribute is great, but if these gestures are ultimately hollow, they will fail. Consumers will quickly tire of them and start to see them as just another marketing tactic resulting in a kind of blowback effect as we saw with Chevy’s recent effort.

Instead of it being seen as a gesture of reaching out and empowering, they will be seen as cyncially manipulative efforts that use, rather than empower.

For brand managers out there thinking about leaping in to the fray, think about what you do next.

How your efforts can transcend tactical marketing tactics and instead become the starting point for a new relationship that you build with your customers?

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