It’s 2009 and everybody wants to be famous. Or at least they want some serious attention. Sometimes I can’t decide myself.
People are revealing astounding personal information about themselves on Facebook, MySpace and other social networks. They’re blogging their hearts out about subjects previously reserved for memoirs. And even the ‘memoir’ genre itself is huge.
Think about what’s on television. American Idol. Survivor. MTV’s Real World. Real Housewives. Lost. The Bachelor. Extreme Makeover. Dancing with the Stars. Big Brother. America’s next Top Model. Biggest Loser. Wife Swap. All shows based on putting ‘ordinary people’ in front of the camera. Mostly to see them humiliated, but that’s another story entirely.
Any individual younger than a Boomer has grown up much more comfortable around microphones & cameras, having an ‘open’ presence on the web, and perhaps most important for marketers – an expectation that their voice will be heard. Even on your web page. Perhaps especially there.
This is why ‘participatory’ branding – allowing your target audience to have a real say in what your brand is all about — makes so much sense today. Cheetos is trying an experiment right now where they’re putting the ‘voice’ of the brand entirely in the hands of… bloggers.
This is not a subtle change in marketing. It’s a brave attempt to see if a community on the web can do a better job of connecting with the consumer than anything that’s been tried before. Like, you know, advertising. The only request they made was ‘please don’t be mean’. How cool is that?
As we move full-force into the brave new world of branding via social networks it’s already apparent that to succeed there, you have to be willing to cede some control. You have to let the folks who love (or hate) what your company does express themselves openly. Because otherwise, they’re going to realize that you’re just trying to push your message out there in a new context. And they’re going to go away.
That’s not what you want. The reason you branch out onto places like Flickr and Twitter and Friendster is because your conventional marketing campaign isn’t working so well anymore. So you make an effort to connect with the target right where they live – online.
The rules are different here. You have to realize it’s their content as much as it is yours. If you do, they just might spread the word about your brand. Because by letting them contribute, you passed the test. They may not be famous yet, but they have a voice. And thanks to that, you’ve started something that they want to be part of.