Like blogging for business, “Consumer Generated Media”, or CGM for fans of the TLA (three letter acronym), has become the haute buzzword of the day. CGM will kill the agency model as we know it today. Agency senior management publicly decries the spread of CGM, calling it all varieties of nasty words. Pundits are thrilled to see that Coke is embracing CGM – being fuel for a Mentos-ignited IED is apparently good for business, after all! Thank goodness they came around!
Look, as all blogs are op ed pieces anyway, let me throw out an opinion. My credibility on this subject stems only from the fact that as a “client-side” marketing VP who has controlled some very large budgets, I’ve been in a position to say “yes” or “no” to a lot of very creative and occasionally very flaky stuff. So let’s pretend that you’ve just presented me with a really hip idea that leverages CGM. Here goes.
CGM as a creative medium is garbage roughly 99% of the time. The good news is that this isn’t the point. This is like saying that the chemical reaction of Coke and Mentos doesn’t produce as much power as BioDiesel, so why bother trying to run my car with it. You’re missing the point.
When consumers interact with your brand it’s about building a community, not developing creative. Nothing has been delegated. No control has been lost. You’ve just let a few thousand people come under the tent flap and play with your ideas.
Who cares if they make fun of stuff you think is important? Who cares if they take your stuff and do unorthodox things with it? If a consumer who is smacked with several thousand advertising impressions a day still chooses to spend a few hours of their limited time creating a video about your brand — regardless of its subjective taste — that’s pretty interesting. Engagement like this is far deeper than anything a banner, a blog, or a Super Bowl spot can do, regardless of how clever your agency thinks it is.
Every time I’ve thrown a “creative assignment” to the masses of the unwashed and un-credentialed “marketers-for-a-day”, two things have happened: first, they’ve produced a lot of unusable creative; second, they all had lots of fun pulling it together, comparing ideas, and awarding the best, worst, ugliest, and funniest of their results. And that’s the lesson to be gained here, in my opinion.
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> If you can find a way to deeply engage people — users, non-users, influencers, fence-sitters, and others — so that they actually spend their free time thinking about your brand, don’t tell them to stop. You don’t want people with creativity and free time getting angry with you. It’s like arguing with a guy holding a megaphone. You always lose.
> It’s not easy building self-sustaining communities of interested people, so if they come knocking at your door, understand that it’s about them and not you. You still control your brand. They are just having fun with it.
> And if that one-in-a-million thing happens where you gain a true insight from all the ‘stuff’ that shows up, count your blessings.
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CGM is a community building tool. It’s not your new creative strategy. Tell your Creative Chief to stop huffing and puffing into the paper bag. Relax.
What “they” do “out there” is something different from what “you” do “in here.”
Our time is up for today, so let’s schedule more time next week. Until then…
Copyright (c) 2006 Stephen Denny
It’s also called UGC (user-generated content) so there’s another 3-letter ditty for you.
This sums it up for me:
“When consumers interact with your brand it’s about building a community, not developing creative. Nothing has been delegated. No control has been lost. You’ve just let a few thousand people come under the tent flap and play with your ideas.”
But this is a control issue to a large extent, whether real or perceived (as you know how perception is just as real as the real fear). The thing is, customers are already saying what they’re saying–now it’s amplified. If you enable and empower, it’s far more likely you’ll build a stronger community. Which is the point as you so brilliantly hit home.
But control (even if perceived) needs to be spun around to facilitating this initiative. Maybe then they’ll feel in control.
But that’s not the point. It’s that you’ll get true feedback. If it’s good? Great. Keep on doing what you’re doing.
If it’s bad? Even better. You now know what to improve. At day’s end, no one can argue with what the customer says…cuz the customer is always right (well, the customer is whose buying, anyhow).
I’m starting to see how the “he says/she says” take shape so we need to get on that in Q1.
Also, for your key takeaways, think about listing them in bold font–cuz they’re bold ideas. Just a thought.
As always, really benefit from and enjoy your thinking.
P.S.: I gave another blogger an idea for a series he just penned while at DisneyWorld, check out my blog post on Mickey. Since we’ve been speaking about packaging content, it’s another example.Cuz these are too good not to amplify. So let go of control and get on that already :-).
Sounds like once we get past the “anarchist’s guide to losing control of your brand” thing, we’re all in agreement.
Community, feedback, engagement, etc. are all good (and also unavoidable, so stop trying to shove the genie back in the bottle). Had a nice off-line discussion with Mack Collier at Viral Garden on his/this post, too.
Oh you were chattin’ it up with “Mr. Community”, eh? I thought he’d love this post–he also just had a terrific blogging basics piece over at MProfs this past week.
With all this control it does net out into one positive = nice consulting gigs that are spent calming the clients down (brown bags and xanax) and guiding them through. So there’s that. A process it shall be. Lookin’ forward to it.
Maybe the illusion of control should be our first focus. What’s real, what’s perceived, what’s was never really there…what they’re losing by not giving it away. Stuff like that. What is control anyway? It’s insecurity. Whose really in control? The ‘submissive’ audience as they allow the ‘dominant’ to think they have the control in the first place.
Just using your comments as a scratchpad for my thought process. Cuz you know I have the control to do so :-).