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  • Writer's pictureChris Bowler

Co-Creating Your Brand with Consumers

A post from a few years ago around participation marketing.

The traditional “rule of thumb” for social media participation has been 90:9:1: 90% view the content without contributing, 9% edit or modify that content, and 1% of people create content. However, high consumer adoption of connected devices and social media and a new level of comfort in online engagement have driven a massive shift. Consumers have moved from being idle viewers of content to active “makers.” For example, 440 million people in 159 countries created 17 million films during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Today’s brands have to assess whether it can be a business driver to enable consumers to tell their brand story, something we call participation marketing at Razorfish.

Participation marketing is not for everyone

Consumers are most likely to fully participate and create content on behalf of a brand that hits on a passion point. While brands in the travel industry are going to have an easier time exciting customers, there are still ways to connect a less glamorous brand category to celebrity endorsements or other things that excite customers. Team agility and responsiveness are also important qualities of a brand looking to enable customer participation. If a campaign is not going as planned, you have to be able to react quickly. That could mean doing quick damage control or jumping on an opportunity to enhance a program by creating and launching a new technology tool on your site.

 Risk tolerance is another important factor. Are you and your executive team willing to give up some control of how your brand is positioned in the marketplace? Are you confident consumers will participate in a way that increases your brand equity?

 Building successful consumer participation requires truly understanding what makes consumers tick. Putting a tool on your site is not enough to get them to act. You have to know what makes them connect to your brand or product and how to activate that connection through a coordinated program based on what the customers are responding to.

 And finally, successfully making the shift to building a brand through consumer participation is a long-term commitment that requires ongoing investment and work. Think about how willing you are to try, learn and improve over time. Take the time to hold periodic review and planning meetings with your junior staff and agency teams to understand where participation triggers are occurring—and why.

Strategies for monetizing consumer participation

Here are several tips for brands that want to make consumer participation part of their business strategy:

Use participation concepts to enhance the effectiveness of product launches and campaign concepts

Consumers need a reason to participate. Are you launching a new product? Hosting an event for loyal customers? Get consumers to actively participate by creating content that furthers your campaign goals and ties customer participation to new product sales or overall campaign effectiveness. This ensures your investment in participation marketing is part of a broader, integrated program.

Do something to actually excite your customers

Push the limits of what social platforms can do—don’t just ask people to submit more videos or photos. Doing this requires real technical expertise that your standard PR or social agency lacks or outsources in disconnected ways.

Build tools that add long-term value to your business

Tools that were initially created to enable participation as part of a campaign have the potential to be longer-term differentiators for your brand. For example, perhaps a configuration tool tells you about customer preferences and informs future product decisions, or content created is leveraged in future programs.

View participation as a broader business learning opportunity

By letting participants “co-create” your brand, you have the ability to push the limits of what your brand represents—from visual aesthetic to core, underlying beliefs. When one of our clients discovered our customers were responding to posts around rap music, we were all stunned. But soon, we created a series of content offerings that tapped into this affinity and allowed our customers to engage and respond.

Reinvent how you measure

Decoupling your brand from the web properties you own (like your corporate site) is the cost of doing business in a more participation-driven marketing world. As a result, brands need to rethink their measurement framework (from content tagging to engagement metrics) to ensure they can track off-site content and get a real sense of the scale of their program. Take the next step—cross-tab your customer purchase data with social profiles to understand where participation mattered—and merge this into your 360-degree CRM strategy.

Reframe the concept of customer lifetime value

Dollar value of customers is still an important metric, but there are other indicators of value that should be taken into account. For example, there is a value associated with assets and free publicity created by the crowd.

Make your teams more fluid

The responsive and fluid nature of brand building in a business that enables customer participation requires a new way of working. Your staff will become more adept at spotting trends and quicker to respond to the needs of customers.

 Do you think your own brand can benefit from enabling consumers to be active participants?

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