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8 ways to go beyond the consumer generated ad

February 13, 2007

Yesterday, Jonah Bloom writing for Advertising Age, made an observation on what lies beyond the consumer-generated ad.

“Of course it is in part about consumers’ access to video-production and -distribution technologies, but it’s also about the increasing sway they hold over any product’s success. It’s about the honest insight and information they offer that can help a company identify problems and opportunities on corporate and brand levels. It’s even about their willingness to co-create with you the products they will later consume.”

However, this is much easier said than acted upon.

We’ve started to see some experiments here and there; most recently Pontiac and Yahoo teaming up to put all the user-generated Pontiac content in one nice and tidy place.

This is pretty easy; consumers are out there generating this stuff, it’s a nice gesture for Pontiac to tidy it up and put it in one place. Thus likely to appeal to the “followers” who are looking for an easy way to get into the community and see what they are up to. It’s probably less good for the “evangelists” who are probably happier inhabiting their own groups and forums that might be off the beaten track.

How does a brand go about embracing the consumer as a true participant in the marketing process?

The biggest leap companies need to make is cultural.

It’s about embracing customers as equal partners in a mutually beneficial relationship, but this is hard to do.

Companies find ways to keep their distance for their customers and even when they try to interact it’s always a little awkward.

We’ve all been privy to the enthusiastic client that bursts into the focus group announced to tell the consumer who?s been complaining about an unsatisfactory service experience that this was an anomaly or is about to be rectified.

Although companies want to believe the customer is king, the real relationship is pretty adversarial.

It’s also not getting any better.

Last week we were running some focus groups and talking to consumers about innovation. One respondent talked about Netflix and how creative and inventive their idea for DVD rental was, at the end of her story, they explained how they were now using a similar service from Blockbuster, because it was more convenient.

Even when you try your hardest to bring amazing ideas to market, they are easily copied and consumers simply jump ship to the next best thing.

The world of fundamental disloyalty makes it hard for companies to feel good about their customers.

However, they companies have no alternative than to summon the courage and power to deliver excellence in their products and services, but now they must find a way to open themselves up to consumer involvement.

Here are 8 things they need to do if they want to bring the consumer more closely into the marketing process.

1. Keep them informed

Use blogs to keep customers informed on what’s going on at the company. Treat your customers as if they are media, which they are.

2.Give them access

If you have content- new ads, new designs,etc…give them access. Give them exclusives when you have the opportunity

3. Understand who they are

Not all customers are equal in their level of enthususiam for the brand. Use some intelligent research to identify the levels of enthusiasm that exist.

4. Migrate customers up the ladder of enthusiasm

Once you know the levels of enthusiasm, create a plan to migrate customers up the ladder

5. Solicit their opinion

Find creative ways to harvest their opinion

6. Challenge them

Don’t just ask random, broad questions. Seek answers to tough challenges; give them clear briefs not blank sheets of paper. The tighter and clearer you are, the better the response will be.

7. Give them tools

Help them use their creativity by giving them tools to help them express their ideas.

8. Reward them

If they contribute, find a ways to reward them

Savvy companies are already bringing customers into their marketing process and gaining competitive advantage as a result, in a time where marketing teams are stretched, who in their right mind is going to turn down some extra help and if it comes from your customers, all the better.

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