The misuse of participation

Participation is certainly the buzz phrase at the moment. Yesterday Richard Madden posted a great article on Marketing Week called “Co-creation can be so much more than this” where he challenges the idea of brands that assume he (and other people)

” want to be part of a fan club. Or a crowd-sourcing movement. Or to co-create something with them”

He counters the arguement that some may have that this is just the ramblings of a middle aged crank by writing of a letter (email really) that came into his inbox from 27 year old Brian. He explains that

” In this document, Brian lambasts advertisers for what he calls “some terrible misunderstanding, where you got the idea that I’d really like the prospect of coming home from work and spending my valuable free time taking part in your stupid idea about sausages, or tea, or washing bloody powder, or anything else for that matter”.

He says that the letter is entertaining and more than likely from an industry source but it does highlight the point that:

“Participation is potentially a massively powerful communications tool. But it needs to be used with discretion”

Richard has found that

“among existing users of the promoted brand, the participative model delivered the best results of all the campaigns surveyed.

This makes intuitive sense. The greater your affinity with the brand, the more likely you are to interact with it. And it’s easy to see how this interaction would boost your usage and advocacy.

So participation has a massive and powerful role in 21st century communications. But it is best deployed among those who are already predisposed to the brand not among the disengaged Brians who comprise the majority of our audience, the majority of the time.”

He goes on to talk about how co-creating unique value with customers is more important.

“the future belongs to brands that engage customers in the process of designing products and services that meet their unique needs.”

Surprising as it may seem, its not brands like Nike and Apple that are getting this right. No its John Deere tractors in the American mid west!

In the Midwest, John Deere no longer just pushes metal at farmers. The brand works with farmers to create tailored solutions comprising leasing and maintenance packages, workflow management systems and accounting tools. It even incorporates data from similar farm clients, with the result that it can predict yield improvements and thus price on a profit-share, rather than cost-plus basis.

You can read the full article here.

Original content by Richard Madden,18 August 2011, Marketing Week


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