Regular readers of AttentionMax know there’s been an open debate which began last Friday between research guru Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown, and me. Nigel sparked it with his post, Great Idea, Wrong Brand. He argued, in context of the Chevy Tahoe (consumers-create-your-own tv-ad) campaign, that the problem with consumer-generated media is just that: the consumer generates it. I responded with a post about how consumers have always controlled the brand once it’s in their hands and minds, and the age of consumer-generated media means that notion will only manifest. And there is digital residue – hmm, consumer-generated media – which makes it harder for marketers to deny this inevitable truth.
Well, the debate hasn’t died yet. Nigel just responded with a synthesis of our debate, and furthers the discussion with some great analysis:
This discussion has caused me to reflect on the role of marketers and consumers in co-creating a brand. One thing I have learned as a market researcher is that most people are unable to imagine a world other than the one they know. That’s why we have to show people rough concepts and prototypes in order to get feedback on possible new developments. The vast majority of people can only react to a brand or ad idea, they cannot create one.
But creating change is vital if a brand is to evolve and grow. A brand which fails to grow will likely stagnate and die, as previously ardent fans wander off in search of something new. In order to evolve, a brand must push the boundaries and challenge the existing status quo. But this rarely happens as a result of undirected consumer action or feedback. Rather, marketers must envisage a future and test whether people are receptive to it. The same holds true for marketing communication. Only by challenging existing preconceptions will a brand create impactful advertising that shifts perceptions rather than reinforcing them. The trick is to do so in a way that makes your current customers enthusiastic partners in the process, not treat them as passive dupes.
Nigel’s full post is here, and I’ll offer more feedback on it later. I’m also determined to convince Nigel to join me in co-creating a consumer-generated video ad with me, to better understand the issues at stake. I think Trader Joe’s should be our culprit.
Laurent Flores of Customer Listening Blog has joined the debate. He writes:
[S]ome consumers are able to create a brand idea, not all of them of course, but some do, then our role becomes to provide them the ability to get heard, and co-create value with other consumers (to your point a vast majority can provide feedback and can react on ideas provided by others). It may sound scary, or odd for most marketers, but we did experiment this with one marketer and got some interesting findings and insights. We did this using some of Zaltam approach to storry telling, and we simply Listen in…very rich! At the end, it is of course up to the marketer to decide where to go based on what is possible indeed, but still worth trying, at least to Learn… because Learning comes from Listening indeed.
More importantly, Laurent has agreed to co-produce with me an unofficial video advertisement about Trader Joe’s. Come on, Nigel!