Let them co-create

At converse.com, you can design your own Chuck Taylor All-Star Slips and even submit a 24-second film defining what Converse means to you. This invitation to co-create is smart, because youth no longer wear brands as a badge of identity, according to BBDO Energy's Chip Walker. 'A brand is more an ingredient to your identity, than a substitute for coming up with your own identity,' he says. 'A company that [allows you to] make your own shoe, that makes sense.'

At converse.com, you can design your own Chuck Taylor All-Star Slips and even submit a 24-second film defining what Converse means to you. This invitation to co-create is smart, because youth no longer wear brands as a badge of identity, according to BBDO Energy’s Chip Walker. ‘A brand is more an ingredient to your identity, than a substitute for coming up with your own identity,’ he says. ‘A company that [allows you to] make your own shoe, that makes sense.’

Max Kalehoff, VP of marketing for New York-based Nielsen BuzzMetrics, which measures consumer-generated media, gives kudos to brands like General Motors, which has bravely ventured into one-on-one conversations with its customers. In particular, he commends the GM Fastlane blog, where execs can communicate with visitors, as well as the recent decision to allow folks to create ads for the Pontiac Tahoe. The latter even led to some negative submissions from SUV activists, which the automaker took in stride. ‘The fact that they left the negative spoof ads increased their authenticity, and increased the engagement customers had with that brand. When you open up and enable that conversation, whether partly negative, it

has credibility.’

Atlanta-based GTM Group’s cultural anthropologist Courtney Counts also believes in empowering the consumer. In fact, GTM did just that in a campaign last year for the TBS program The Real Gilligan’s Island.

Titled ‘How Do you Get Off?’ and geared at 18-24s, the grassroots and guerrilla media campaign centred on the design and installation of a billboard on top of a building adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. Young local artists were invited to contribute to a live art experience, featuring mixed media of graffiti, paint and live appliqués. GTM promoted the event through urban-oriented Web sites like giantstep.com.

But Counts sounds a note of caution for consumer-generated marketing, pointing out it’s how you put these campaigns together that matters most. ‘It can’t look like a ‘hopping on the bandwagon, anything we can do to make the sale,’ or a move of desperation based on the latest innovation. If it reeks of that in any way, it will have more failure than success.’ LD