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Think of fans as collaborators

April 15, 2009

I thought that what Skittles did, and what axe is doing here is smart. It was taking their site and turning it into a listening tool. In the case of Skittles, it’s simply saying “look at what people are saying” about our brand. I liked it because I think marketers should seriously think about not doing websites. Skittles didn’t do a website. They did a thing that gives me and you a reason to come back and take a look. Maybe it’s a bad reason, and maybe it’s a bad execution of a good idea, but I still think it’s a good idea.

Skittles.
Image via Wikipedia

These aren’t brands that people want to have a conversation with. Skittles is an impulse buy. I don’t want to engage in conversation with it on Twitter. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there talking about it. In the case of Skittles, there were. And so Skittles funneled the people to Facebook so that they could meet and chat with each other. Which I think is smart.

I tell you all this because I have an idea.

As agencies like Agency.com (and ours) get more involved in this space, i think we should use the word collaborator. In normal paid media executions (TV, Radio, print), we use a creative brief. The brief essentially tells marketers what one thing we’ll say to the target market that will encourage them to do something. I’ve simplified it a little, but the creative brief is essentially tell these people this so they’ll do that.

But what if we began to think of these people as ‘collaborators’? Instead of people who will hear a message and do that, what if they were people who heard the message and told their friends? Or passed it on? Or mashed it up? If we think of the people in our target market as potential collaborators, it means we have to consider where they might collaborate. And that gets us thinking about the online tools that facilitate collaboration.

True, there’s the danger that the mashup they’ll create will be negative. There’s a danger that when they are collaborators, they will tell people about us using the wrong words, logos, etc. Thinking of the target market this way means giving up some serious control, because it means encouraging people to talk back.

But if it makes sense, it could be fun.

And the best part is, we won’t be doing social media for the sake of it. We’ll be back to doing marketing, and social media will simply be a means to collaborate.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ecairn permalink
    April 15, 2009 5:22 pm

    I think you’re correct. There’s always a risk when you release control and open so yes, the mashup may be negative. But with every risk lies an opportunity. Community have a way to find a balance (almost like a they have a psyche with an ego, superego etc that balance eachother). There will be positive and negatives; hopefully, if it’s well managed by the brand and it’s product/services are good and they’re engaged and caring about their customers, more positive than negative. May be even the mix of + and – will humanize it, give it a face and if the – are acknowledges/responded to, then they may become a +. In today’s world, website trying to tell how perfect a brand is are a waste of time and money, so are super polished press release. Consumers are smart.

  2. April 16, 2009 11:31 am

    Thanks for that comment. I’ve been saying a version of your second last sentence for years. One day, people will believe your last sentence, and act accordingly, letting smart consumers collaborate.

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