Participation marketing requires more than just participation
From its early days advertising thrived on making people believe they needed or wanted a specific product from a specific brand. Every effort was focused on pushing messages out until a few years ago when ordinary people become influential creators and a few smart brands realized the power of the crowd and changed the game. Back then it was fun for people to submit videos and pictures and win random stuff because such opportunities weren’t many.
Today almost every brand in the USA has tried to engage its consumers in some sort of participation marketing: sharing stories, creating new products, finding innovate uses of products, deciding on brands’ cause marketing efforts, naming products, voting or creating logos, etc. There isn’t a day when a new minisite or a Facebook Tab is launched asking for confessions, stories, videos, pictures, mini mes, new flavors, new designs, etc. Yet most such efforts fail and we remember only a handful successful ones that do make a difference when it comes to sales and profits.
Am I against participation/engagement marketing? Definitely no, but I do think most brands approach it with high hopes and little thought.
What are some factors to think about? What made the Ford Fiesta Movement, Vitaminwater’s flavorcreator and Pepsi’s Refresh Project so successful?
If you look at any successful co-creation marketing effort, you’d notice that it is consumer-centric not brand-centric. Consumers’ first question about a participatory marketing initiative would be “What’s in it for me?” All successful projects make it valuable for the consumer and enable him/her to do something he/she is already trying to figure out how to do.
Not only is successful participatory marketing relevant and beneficial to the consumer, but it is also relevant to the brand: what the brand stands for and what it does to make consumers’ lives easier and better. Brands shouldn’t create co-creation projects just because they are fun and will get people excited, but because they are rooted in the core brand strategy and make sense. However, that doesn’t mean that such projects shouldn’t be fun and interesting. On the contrary, they should be a unique and spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Consumers’ participation in marketing campaigns is always driven by passion. Not only passion for the brand, but passion for what the brand stands for, passion for the idea in the center of the campaign, passion for doing/making something.
Another reason for consumers’ participation in such advertising efforts in the purpose of the campaign. What will happen with consumers’ content? How will it be used? What is the purpose for the initiative? No one creates something (even a Facebook status update) just because Brand X asks for it.
Another characteristic of successful co-creation advertising campaign is the strong community that they create. It’s the brand’s responsibility to create, activate and empower an enthusiastic community that participates on different levels of engagement: creation, commenting, voting, promoting, etc.
The opportunity to share mastery and improve social status within a niche community of passionate individuals is another important reason why people participate in co-creation advertising campaigns. Successful campaigns are built on this insight and enable consumers to do something they are good at and show it to a niche community that will appreciate it.
The last characteristics of successful participatory marketing campaigns is their time-sensitive approach that urges people to engage now and their clear instructions and relatively easy ways to join. Relatively easy ways to join is very relative and depends on the audience. Some audiences might be excited to create short films or fashion items, while for others anything beyond sharing a picture or a few sentences is too much work. Regardless of the sophistication of the content, the submission of the content should always be easy and quick.
Incentives are a good final touch, but a good incentive is not necessary a large amount of money. For some people, it is fame or recognition. For others, a good incentive is to see their idea realized or their content published. It all comes down to knowing your audience.
Today almost every brand has a participation marketing campaign and these campaigns don’t get the buzz they once used to. The best way to stand out with a participation advertising is having a passionate crowd, knowing what motivates the crowd and using that knowledge to create a meaningful, purposeful, time-sensitive, spectacular campaign that is relevant to the brand and beneficial to the community.