Inside-out Creative, a Strategic Advantage in a Crowded Marketing Field

This is a second in a series of posts based on the findings of the IBM study titled “The end of advertising as we know it”. The first post titled “The End of Advertising as We Know It…I am Small Business, so Why do I Care?” was based on the changes in consumer behavior, how they consume advertising and the usage of Internet.

In this installment I will discuss “User Generated Content.” User generated content is arguably as appealing to consumers as versions created by agencies. According to the IBM study, It is a trend that will continue to grow. This is great news for small and medium businesses because they can leverage their networks of costumers, partners, employees and professional networks to ignite and embrace a dialog around common interests. This is why it is important for companies and other organizations to closely monitor what is being said about their brands and making sure they participate in the conversation. However, many entrepreneurs, start-ups, local businesses, local non-profits and other smaller companies don’t have strong brands that people talk about, thus they have a great opportunity to guide and influence future online dialogs as their brands grow.

More than 25% of US consumers have contributed content on social sites according to the IBM study, and according to the data from the Social Technographics profile study done by Forrester Research, this trend will only keep growing as it has in the last few years. The beauty of this trend, along with social technologies that embrace sharing, rating and bookmarking, is that it is paving the path to a larger movement around online word-of-mouth (WOM).

WOM, is based on consumer experience, and in this case digital consumer experience. A recent study by Razorfish titled “Feed: The Rasorfish Digital Experience Report 2009” suggests that digital brand experiences are not just “awareness” or “conversion” plays, but customer-creation plays and that digital brand experiences create customers. So, if your target audience is online on a daily basis, participates in social media sites and spends money online for business or personal purchases, then you must pay close attention to your digital brand experience.

An article titled “Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager” published by Advertising Age argues, based on a research study titled “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age,”conducted by Forrester Research, that brand managers should turn into brand advocates. They need to be more powerful and consumer-centric, much nimbler, and more real-time-oriented than the brand manager of today. They need to let go some of the control they had in the past, users want and will interact with your brand from a message and positioning perspective.

It’s not only consumers that will drive your digital brand experience, your partners and employees can also make a difference. Small and medium size firms have a unique opportunity to create a strategic advantage over larger organizations, by engaging partners and employees. To illustrate how employees can help create appealing content, think of all the knowledge that is within the employees of your company. Nobody knows your customers, prospects, products, competitors and the dynamics of your market segment better than your own employees. What are you going to do about it?

Below are 6 questions to ask yourself before starting any marketing initiative the involves employees:

  1. Does the culture of the company support an initiative like this?
  2. Will the executive team listen to and allow employee generated content?
  3. Should you utilize behavioral and team building tools and techniques to get employees from different backgrounds and communication styles to effectively work with others?
  4. Is my employee base active on social media? What is their online behavior?
  5. Have other similar initiatives that include employee input been successful in the past?
  6. Will I need help or support from HR and the executive team?
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