I just got back from the “CMA Convention and Tradeshow”:http://www.the-cma.org/convention/intro.html in Montreal. And what is left ringing in my ears? *It’s all about ME.* Well, it’s all about them… the consumer. Marketers need to internalise that the game has changed and the consumer is taking an active, if not leading role.
Well, not even the consumer, but rather the “prosumer”. Max Lenderman (Creative Director at GMR Marketing LLC) defines the prosumer as a consumer that is: proactive, professional or a producer. In any case, this prosumer is empowered. And if we choose to collaborate *with* them, they can become our most powerful brand evangelists. More details can be found in Lenderman’s blog “Experience the Message”:http://experiencethemessage.typepad.com/.
Co-collaboration was also highlighted by Dr. Martha Rogers (Founding Partner, Peppers & Rogers Group). Rogers asserted that organizations need to enter a “learning relationship” with our customers. By positioning my customer as a co-collaborator with me, I am able to de-commoditize my product/service. I will have something to offer my customer that none of my competitors will – an ability to support my customer in a unique and personalised way. Rogers’ new book “Return on Customer”:http://www.returnoncustomer.com/ contains additional information about creating customer relationships built on trust and co-collaboration.
One Degree’s own “Mitch Joel”:http://www.twistimage.com/blog/ stated that “I *am* the online experience” (the customer, not Mitch 🙂 ) in his presentation entitled “The Brand is Flat”. His assertion that “what people say about your brand is what your brand will become” rings true; our customers are the ones who will actualize our brands, who will morph it into what *they* want it to become. They are not bound by our guideline-laden three-ring binders full of kerning rules and brand-personality constrictions. As marketers, we need to be prepared for the new ways that our customers are interacting with our brands and how they are making them their own. Mitch cited some great examples including interactive virtual spaces like Habbo Hotel and Second Life. We need to engage and converse with our customers in these spaces, not just traditional ones.
My favourite metaphor for this brave new prosumer-centric world came from another One Degree-er “Bill Sweetman”:http://www.sweetmantra.com/. Speaking about “The Rise of the On Demand Consumer”, Sweetman admonishes marketers to remember “It’s always their birthday. It’s their Media, their Voice, their Permission. They are the MVP.” In addition to giving a field guide on how to spot these “on-demand” customers (hint: they are often your problem customers or your squeeky wheels), Sweetman also suggested ways to reach these always-on and on-demand consumers: Throw a party. Engage them. Give them tools that empower them, and that they can share with their friends. From this will come the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with them.
It’s a new game for marketers… something that we’ve all seen coming. The winners in this game will be those that partner with our customers as co-creators. Our customers will rally around those companies and those brands that empower them and enable them to be at the centre of attention.