Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Most Consumer-Generated Media Are Not Engaging?

Rob Passikoff of Brand Keys writes:
The thing is that a lot of consumer-generated content is, well, terrible, not particularly on strategy, and not engaging, which are areas that even the most unskilled marketers can still maintain some control over. Consumer-generated content may awaken marketers to certain values or trends, so marketers should pay attention, but “let go”? We think not.

Consumer-generated content analysts have pointed out that there is no standard between paid and non-paid consumption, and that there is no norm when it comes to the extent to which the content is wholly created by consumers or assisted by marketers. But that is not entirely true. Just because content is “consumer-generated” provides no guarantee that strategy or creativity or engagement will be represented, let along attained.

Even back in the old days (1975) when advertisers still controlled the advertising and persuasion, there was a tacit acknowledged difference between “creativity” and “disciplined creativity.” So just because it’s “consumer-generated” doesn’t mean it’s good, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective, and it doesn’t mean anyone is going to be engaged by it!

Rob makes excellent points, but I think his focus on consumers as content creators versus marketers as content creators distracts us from the core of the issue. The best way to sum up my argument is to take you back to a debate that Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown and I had a few months ago. Nigel said:

The problem with consumer-generated media is just that, the consumer generates the media. They are in control, not you. The example of Chevy Tahoe should give all marketers a pause for thought. If you are not a brand that is universally loved, can you afford to give control to people that may not have your best interests at heart?

I responded:

When have customers and the people ever not been in control of brands? It would seem to me that they always have, at least to a terrific extent. People go around every day passionately communicating to others about which brands are awesome and which ones suck. For example, my frequent, positive references to JetBlue are not spawned by any blatant attempt by those companies to engage in so-called consumer-generated media; they didn’t consciously afford me control of their brands. Rather, these creations of consumer-generated media are expressions of my deep, personal experiences with the respective brands. It just happened organically – without the brand’s active or conscious participation.

While some marketers think they’re in charge, the reality is:

  1. we all have encounters with brands
  2. our brains process and reflect on those brand encounters
  3. if those brand encounters ignite passions, we often express those experiences in the form of consumer-generated media – sometimes in the form of face to face conversations, telephone discussions, online diaries, letters-to-editors and friends, and elsewhere.

People now have more control to speak out, and more control over brand dispersion, integrity and mutation. There now is a digital trail of raw consumer discussion – expression and evidence of experience – that forever lives on Internet servers, and, most importantly, in the indexes of Google, YouTube and the like, where active influencers and others stakeholders will discover it. Now – like never before – there is unavoidable evidence that consumers do talk about and control the brand once it’s in their hands. It is increasingly impossible for brand managers to deny this.


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