So, it has been quite some time since I last posted any musings. Alas, with the new year comes new responsibilities… Fortunately, I have been tied up on a certain subject lately: consumer generated content.
Back about 3 or so years ago, I got really excited about Jones Soda Co. Peter van Stolk practically revolutionized consumer generated content by relying on consumer photography for packaging. Now the company has blossomed from small start up to a giant in the RTD beverage community.
However, as time passes, I get a bit less excited/exacerbated by the prospect of more consumer generated content. I think marketers have become so swayed by consumer research that they have allowed themselves to think that the best ideas come from the public. And perhaps they are right, I mean, the consumers know first hand what they want to see or what motivates their consumption choices.
And this is where it gets scary. The more companies rely on consumer consumption patterns and behavior metrics, the more focused marketing will become. On the one hand, this will more accurately match supply with demand; however, it seems to me that our behavior and consumption behaviours are beginning to dictate the consumption environment around us to a negative extreme. If marketers continue to rely on copy-test scores, behaviour patterns, and psychographic measurements/analysis, all brands will eventually become so aware of our every step that our consumption options will become less and less random.
What do I mean by this? Basically, if Pepsi knows everything about me, they can “target” me so perfectly that I will eventually lose the ability to discern between choice and acceptance. If marketers are so aware of who we are, what we think, and how we respond to certain buzzwords/visual patterns, we will no longer be choosing between Pepsi and Coke: they will essentially be perfectly marketed to us whereby we either become a “Pepsi person” or a “Coke person.” Of course, this distinction exists right now. But, the difference exists in the ability to choose.
Of course, this is an extreme scenario. Ultimately, I am trying to appeal to a more creative and independent course to marketing. What makes brands great are the stances they take, the positions they make on their own. For instance, Dyson strives to make the best vacuum money can buy. They do this by making an exceptional product, flaunting their knowledge of engineering, and being honest about their capabilities. This is a brand I love. I don’t even own a Dyson, but I totally love the fact that they made a product based on superiority – not because I really wanted a better vacuum (or because the word “Dyson” has been proven via extensive testing to trigger a sensory response leading me to purchase a vacuum cleaner) but rather because they saw a need and had the skills.
I could go on and on but what I want to say is this: respect individuality and a challenge. Nothing upsets me more than to see companies try to figure out a formula for capturing their audiences perfectly. Make a stand, and people will follow out of respect and admiration. If they don’t, then go out of business. Consumers have higher expectations these days, so the challenge is harder. But its no excuse to give up a creative challenge and rely totally on consumer research – and more and more, their creativity.