It's Only the Beginning

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The business of marketing is in the midst of a massive cultural shift. While buzzwords like co-creation, mass-collaboration and crowdsourcing are all the rage, there’s actually a much bigger and deeper change going on with the way work gets done.

Three disruptive forces: the expectation of transparency, the further digitization of the workforce and the rise of the curator class, all coupled with the current macro-economic conditions, have changed the world of marketing forever. Like it or not, from professional creatives to consumers, people want to be involved with your brand.

The exciting thing is you can take advantage of the new tools being developed in this new age. Just look at the exposure Doritos received from its crowdsourcing efforts. Two weeks after the Super Bowl the four Doritos spots owned the post game marketing conversation. Together they had nearly 18 million views, or 40% of all Super Bowl ads online.

The tide is shifting quickly. How can you thrive in this new paradigm? Brave brands, including Doritos, have begun to knock down their marketing walls and explore the world of abundance. They are discovering that there are many ways to do it:

1.    Starbucks, Dell and Best Buy have all set up idea marketplaces that allow customers to share their product innovation and marketing ideas. This is a great way to open the flood gates to let people play with your brand. Get ready. They’ll love it.

2.    Cisco has involved customers to produce its latest Flip video commercials. Consumer generated videos worked well for Flip because of what it is, but it can work for anyone. Your customers have the tools. Let them tell the story.

3.    LG used Crowdspring to engage a large community of consumers and designers to design a new cell phone. What a great way to get new ideas in the product design process.

4.    And, Unilever dropped its agency Lowe and used to crowdsource its TV spots for Peperami. They wanted more ideas and more value. In fact, they loved what they got so much that they awarded an additional prize-winner.

Every day there are new tools that emerge that allow you to collaborate with people on current social media networks, from Facebook to Twitter, or their own community. The key is to use the right tool to solve the right problem.

It’s only the beginning.

So, how do you use the mass collaboration and crowdsourcing tools available to build more momentum for your brand? How do you manage the unruly and talent rich crowd, while maintaining the speed, flexibility and cost savings of the new digital ecosystem? Here’s what we’ve been learning about doing marketing in this new world:

1.    Focus on connecting with your consumers – While pundits love to point out the failures, there are already many successes. Mystarbuck’s ideas is a good case in point. What started out as a small way to capture product ideas from customer’s has become a major driving force for Starbucks’ innovation. Two years into the project the brand has received more than 80,000 suggestions, hired a staff to deal with such an outpouring of involvement and turned 50 of the suggestions into innovative products that now sit on the shelves of stores. But, most of all Starbucks turned customers into passionate fans and got them involved in the brand. Follow Starbucks’ path. Get customers involved, listen to what they want and engage them in innovation. Start to experiment.

2.    Develop strategies that can inspire great work from a crowd of creatives, strategists and consumers – You have to play an active role in working with any crowd. Writing a strategic brief for a crowd is much different than writing it for an internal team. You have to not only write a great brief, but also participate in an ongoing dialogue as the work moves along.

3.    Focus on getting more people involved – Look for ways to broaden particpants, from customers to top creative and strategic talent. Use social media, from Twitter to Facebook, to create more momentum. But remember, it’s great to ask for participation but that goes two ways. Many people think of social media as a broadcast tool. It’s not. It’s the start of a conversation. We can all learn something from Barry Judge, the CMO of Best Buy. He’s out there blogging, tweeting and participating in a conversation. He solves problems and gets feedback from his followers.  

4.    Focus on ideas – Open Source marketing and crowdsourcing allows for an overwhelming number of ideas to be developed to solve your marketing or product design problem. To keep up with the volume, the very structure of marketing organizations must change. The mentality has to become more iterative. Faster.

There are lots of different ways to play with crowds. You can start by running a project on one of the public crowdsource platforms, such as Crowdspring or Innocentive. These platforms are great to get mass participation, but they rely on you to write the brief and creatively direct the crowd. Another way to go, especially with more strategically sensitive projects, is to use a smaller, private crowd, which is a strategy we’ve implemented with a lot of success.  

While it’s anybody’s guess what the precise future of marketing will be, one thing is for sure: This new model of marketing can be seen as a threat to what you do or a powerful force to distance yourself from your competitors. This new model no longer tries to control the brand but recognizes that a brand exists in the collective consciousness of culture. In this new model, guidance and inspiration go much further than command and control.

Image source: mararie

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