Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't forget the 'community' in community-empowerment

'Create our ads/product' promotions are just as popular as ever. While in the sense of getting customers involved in the marketing process, this is a good step, but also a small one. The company ultimately benefits far more from these type of initiatives than the community does. The company throws a few prizes at the winners, and in the end gets their ad/product created at a fraction of the price they would have paid, and usually have a far superior finished product.

Eventually, the community will begin to get bored with these types of promotions, and realize they are simply doing the hard work for the companies. That's why the smart companies NOW are the ones that are shifting the balance toward the community, and giving their customers something out of the deal. The 'create our ad for us' promotion doesn't empower the community, it empowers the company.

I recently blogged on BMA about a new promotion that The Barenaked Ladies have started. They are letting fans remix 6 of their songs completely by letting fans purchase the 'pro files' to each track, which lets them completely re-do the song. The band has set up a site where fans can submit their remixes, and the winner for each track will be packaged together as a special BNL EP that will be sold with the proceeds going to charities. That's a step in the right direction, but companies can still do more.

I've received 3 emails just this month from companies wanting advice on how to embrace and build their communities. My advice is always this: Build your campaign/movement around their passions, not yours.

Empower your community, and they'll happily return the favor.

Pic via Flickr user eugene


Tim Jackson said...

And there's the rub...

It's hard for a company to define their community's/ customer's passions. Those passions have to be expressed to them and that is sometimes difficult when you might have a lound minority and a silent majority. Who do you cater to?

Cool promotion by BNL though. I like that idea.

Anonymous said...

There sure is a fine line between community empowerment and just plain taking advantage of your customers.

All these 'create our ad for us' promotions have that inauthentic corporate gloss that, I believe, kills enthusiasm for the product.

The BNL promotion was so good because it doesn't come off as some selfish corporate gesture, but as truly giving their costumers something that would enhance their enjoyment of the product. Great stuff.

Mack Collier said...

"All these 'create our ad for us' promotions have that inauthentic corporate gloss that, I believe, kills enthusiasm for the product."

Exactly. If the customer has to ask 'what's in it for me?', then it's a bad promotion.

Anonymous said...

Future success stories will go beyond targeting consumer passions in generating media. This is a sign of a bigger trend in organizational decentralization. Expect to see companies leveraging consumers not just for marketing, but to co-deliver customer support, produce products, and even drive corporate decision-making. Welcome to the organziation of the new millenium.