Utility + Message = Experience ≠ Branding

Someone proposed the question; Is Consumer Generated Advertising the next big thing? And by someone, I mean someone on a participant network. I was a little confused by this question for a few reasons.

The fact that someone has asked this question in a quasi-public forum while having it answered by industry professionals and lurkers alike, is testimony enough. This survey is community-driven and in-effect, user-generated. It has been contributed to and advanced upon by many without provocation or payment. I think the term; Consumer Generated Advertising,(CGA) is over-defined or not implicit enough. Every brand should expect that all users will participate in brand development. And as technology for synchronized communication with ubiquitous access to information on home/mobile devices grows closer, we’ll see more participation. A brand that enables and contributes to its prospects voice(s) will see greater return on their marketing. Public Relations, as a term, has taken center-stage from the industry’s perspective as a way to market itself. But it has no more value than any other channel in the branding arena.

Utility + Message = Experience ≠ Branding.

Let’s also consider something else; This approach to marketing is not always the best approach for every brand. CGA isn’t a push, it’s an unexpected result. People creating their own How-To’s with products and services are doing it because they can. Not because they we’re asked to endorse something. This type of CGA, in itself, is nothing new. Everyday day we help others out. Especially with recommendations and demonstrations of our intimate understanding about a topic of some sort. If a brand provides a product, service or idea that merits discussion, it will happen with or without Public Relations.

Remove those mental barriers.
Mitigate crisis with a conversation.

4 thoughts on “Utility + Message = Experience ≠ Branding”

  1. Marc, I love the idea of product users having an active voice in the promotion (and maybe even development) of products they use and love — but do you think most brand managers are ready to “let down their guard” and actually allow this? Even with a phalanx of PR people standing guard? Not so sure.

    Which is why I was so intrigued by the Skittles thing. That took balls.

  2. Skittles was impressive, but creative integrity ( I’m cleverly disguising ego ) says, it’s a copy, or an iteration of another agency’s idea. –I know, that isn’t the point. It is bold, but it’s also candy. When we really think about candy with regards to brand positioning, it’s easy to accept an invitation from Willy Wonka. We enjoy silly. And appreciate that candy isn’t anything more than it should be. Fun and silly. We can appreciate the unfamiliar.

    To answer your question; Yes–I think brand managers are ready. And I do not see the need for a phalanx of PR people, either. At the rate of adoption of technology, both web-based and hardware-based, aggregating social commentary ( oh, the sweet irony of that term ) isn’t enough. I doubt rapid prototyping is even enough.

    In all fairness, I do not think it is the brand manager that has difficulties embracing this process. I think it is the environment in which brand managers currently operate in. Strategists, Planners, whatever the title evolves into, will eventually need to stop watching and start participating.

    But then again, I noticed a friend visiting a website the other day, she was waiting for the screen to start doing something, not realizing that she heeded to run her mouse across the screen in order for the content to emerge and populate her browser.

    Having said this, I wonder if an interactive medium can thrive when the majority of users continue to watch the screen instead of interact with it. If this is common across the board, ( which it isn’t ) Brand Managers have plenty of time to familiarize themselves and catch-up. 😉

    There is a larger ripple to this social-wave however, I do not think its going to drown branding. It potentially can wash away and make new.

  3. My cynical take: systems (such as those the planners et al. that you refer to cling to) develop over time to guide and protect the less talented — keep them from screwing up too badly. That’s why they’ll cling to them. It doesn’t just take brave people to try new things, they have to be smart enough to be able to predict negative outcomes and avoid them.

    As our industry continues to dissolve, it will be interesting to see where the new talent comes from.

  4. You are right. But I believe there are people out there.

    Predicting the negatives has a nasty side-effect; You can’t tell anyone–it inherently affords someone the opportunity to implement or succeed it, thereafter.

    Thats why everyone makes money writing books about how it could have been prevented, versus being brave and vocalizing their concerns prior too. Maybe I’m a little cynical, too.

    I also look at the major moves companies have made into emerging markets and countries with under developed economies. This plays a big part, in my opinion. Technology, if implemented quickly, can leverage and equalize an entire generation. Or it can be spoon fed, at a high cost for versioning.

    Thank you for your thoughts, as usual, they are always worth reading.

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