This post was originally published on Edelman.com.
In the past, companies held the keys to all the doors of communications, leaving the consumers only with the hope that someone would answer their knocks. With the emergence of web 2.0 and social media in the late 2000s, the situation changed, but not so much on the side of corporations. While they still held most of the keys, communities were able to break down some doors for the consumer. In addition, a growing competitive environment with interchangeable product offerings and ad-weary end users made marketing budgets explode.
In the end, companies realized that there is only so much advertising noise a consumer can process and that for him, it is the experience with and personal relevance of a brand or product that sets it apart from others. One of the first industries to go that way was the mobile industry: emailing, browsing and video recording were available long before the smartphones, but when companies started to promote the experience and the relevance of those features for people’s lives instead of just naming them, they pushed awareness for smartphones beyond the geeks and nerds.
Instead of trying to scream the loudest today, the goal of most corporations is to scream with more voices by building relationships with consumers, stimulating discussions, creating experiences and offering shareable, relevant and newsworthy content no matter what the channel. But shouldn’t it go beyond that? Although some doors are open, others are still closed and too strong to get knocked down by communities.
What does beyond mean?
According to GoGetFunding, crowdfunding platforms are expected to raise 5.1 billion USD in 2013, nearly 100 percent more than 2012. The growing success of crowdfunding supports a trend that has evolved in the past years: people want to be part of something. And to be, they share, create and even fund products or brands they love or that offer them a meaningful experience. They are willing to be as much a consumer as they are to be an employee, a shareholder, a community activist or an avid user of products eager to advise on design. Just like Andrew Kim, who criticized the design of Microsoft’s* “The Next Microsoft” by creating a design study on his own and found himself employed by the company later on. As Chris Armstrong writes, “hiring Andrew Kim is an example of how Microsoft uses this same process internally — the company is not afraid to hire quirky designers who propose radical changes to their branding.”
Beyond means that corporations need to build even deeper relationships, generate meaningful experiences and offer the mutual creation of content. Beyond also means, that brands need to leave the traditional product, Point of Sales and service experience behind. Some companies already embrace this, like Nike with their fuelband, making the brand an integral part of a user’s life. They created shared and shareable meaningful experiences with and for consumers and enabled users to tell their own personal stories to share with friends and families.
If brands open this door in communication, they can expect to be more relevant to their customers. They will also gain more knowledge about their customers with which they will be able to create more personal services and experiences. At a minimum, the benefits corporations receive by investing in engagement and shared and shareable experiences are more loyal customers that feel valued and embrace the company in return. It is time to stop just informing and get involved.
Image credit: JenGallardo