Welcome to a new age: the “Participation Age.” For marketers that means an entirely new level of how they engage consumers.
“The Participation Age is more fragmented, personal, connected, real-time, and always-on than we could ever imagine,” wrote Daina Middleton, CEO of Performics, in her book “Marketing In The Participation Age.” “It is about participants who actively manage life by utilizing the many technology tools at their fingertips. Successful marketers in this new age will not simply focus on customers, but be customer-obsessed with them. . .interaction is key. Competitive companies understand that they must do more and motivate customers to act on their behalf to be successful and inspire people to participate and keep them coming back.”
Here’s what brands are doing to nurture and cultivate loyalists in the Age of Participation:
Erich Marx, director of interactive and social media marketing at Nissan, told CMO.com:
Nissan is a big believer in leveraging the passion, knowledge, and expertise of our social fan base. We have had success in partnering with them to do highly engaging and sharable work in the space, and plan to continue to learn from them and invite them to partner with us in terms of content for, and insights about, the Nissan brand.
In support of the launch of the all-new 2013 Nissan Versa Note, last summer Nissan invited our social fans to submit their own six-second Vine or 15-second Instagram video to us for the chance to win $1,000 Amazon gift cards and possibly even have their “InstaVine” appear as part of a Nissan TV commercial. The user-generated video simply needed to include a small cut-out of a 2013 Nissan Versa Note (that we provided via a link that fans could download, print, and cut out at home).
The contest was promoted throughout our owned digital spaces and received a ton of buzz and earned media/press. But, frankly, as cool as the contest was--and we did, indeed, have millions of impressions and hundreds of really creative entries--the feedback from consumers, in general, was that it was too complicated to participate and maybe even a bit intimidating to those who didn’t want their videos judged in such a large, public forum like Vine or Instagram. Lesson learned--when partnering with consumers and/or inviting them to submit content, make it easy to play. Social media remains a time-filler (albeit an interesting and engaging one) for many fans, and brands requesting active participation need to simplify the ask as much as possible.
Here's the video that came out of the contest:
Playing off the success of our original crowdsourced car build, Project 370Z (in 2011), Nissan will be launching in June our latest effort to engage with our social fans. Specifically, this time we will invite them to help us build the ultimate Titan Truck--The Project Titan. The assignment is to take a base Nissan Titan Truck and via a series of surveys on our Facebook page ask our fans to vote on which parts and accessories we should use to build the ultimate Nissan Titan. The result will be the Project Titan. We will send two representatives from The Wounded Warrior Project (and an embedded journalist to capture the adventure for us) to Alaska to truly test the Titan and prove its mettle.
Margaret Czeisler, VP of strategic alliances at Razorfish, told CMO.com:
Collaboration between brands and consumers is happening across every aspect of business today.
On the product side, you have “My Starbucks” as perhaps the most revered example in the industry, but we also have Google’s launch of Glass. While the product itself and even the approach gets flack, this was a pivotal move for an OEM to invite anyone--consumers, developers, etc.--into defining the product before it was even released, when it was still a very early beta. Google said, “Hey, this is really new territory. We don’t know the best application, the best stories that will come from this, but these explorers will make this better and more useful than we could dream up.”
From a marketing and product development perspective, this is the antithesis of the industry, which is usually veiled in secrecy. They were transparent; they invited anyone that was interested in submitting their ideas, and they knowingly let this early, flawed product out into the wild. Despite the inevitable backlash, whether the product will prove to be a success or a failure is unknown; it’s a new category and new territory. But I believe this approach of collaboration on products will be intrinsic to product and marketing.
There are more classic marketing examples today, as well. We’ve been collaborating in content creation and distribution with consumers and brands, such as Delta and Citi, for several years. Much of what we see as the most successful marketing campaigns in media, social, and creative are a result of this type of collaboration.
For the launch of the new fragrance Axe Anarchy, we took a genre that has fueled fantasies for decades--the graphic novel--and turned this into a more relevant platform for today’s generation raised on real-time, instant gratification by inviting them to shape the full arch of the story, which was then woven in real time by illustrators. Stories and people were woven into the novel, voted on, and ultimately written by more that 50 different authors, all of whom were consumers.
For Mercedes-Benz, we launched Take The Wheel for the launch of the CLA last year. The CLA was an entirely new product for Mercedes-Benz, designed from the ground up for a younger generation. To reach the generation that’s largely adverse to advertising, Razorfish made it clear we needed an entirely new way to engage this audience, one that was inherently collaborative, inherently social. It wasn’t going to be an easy task. In some ways, they were a challenger brand with this audience.
We selected five of the most talented Instagrammers to test drive the CLA for seven days, posting their images along the road. The one that was able to garner the most likes for their images won the car at the end. Consumers determined the outcome of their favorite Instagrammers. And it drove results. The winning image had 2 million likes. The campaign had 87 million organic impressions; even the trailer that explained the challenge had 11.5 million likes. We created more than 150 marketing assets used to merchandise the car in retail and beyond. And, most importantly, the car sales broke records.
Karl Isaac, head of brand strategy and innovation at Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company), told CMO.com:
There is an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is particularly true within the world of innovation, where it has never been easier to quickly frame up concepts in isolation, yet it's when you start collaborating with your customers/audiences that amazing and unexpected things can happen.
One example near and dear to me at Adobe is our Adobe Remix project, where we've been innovating on the very nature of branding by inviting our audience in--commissioning world-renowned artists, designers, photographers, advertisers, architects, hackers, etc.--to reinterpret our [logo]. By opening ourselves up to a new breed of design thinking, which mashes up both mediums and disciplines alike, we've created an incredible system for our band that truly engages with and celebrates our creative community. Working together with our audience will indeed take us farther than going at it alone.
These are some of the reimagined logos thus far.