Brand Co-Creation: Brands and Consumers get equal say in developing a Brand

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Slide1There’s a lot of talk about co-creation, where both the brand and the consumer have a voice in the brand’s positioning and even the marketing.  There are those that think co-creation is a strategy and those that who treat it like a tactic.  And others that say it’s a great process to go through.  Get a bunch of consumers to help you.  But co-creation is just a new reality that brands have to work with.  


The simplest of co-creation has always existed in marketing.  Brands tell the consumer something, who can then decide whether to believe it or not.  The simple model of stimulus (brand message) and response (consumer perception or action).  I’ve always said there is “truth in advertising, because all un-true messages are eventually rejected by the consumers”.  Yes, it used to be possible to get by with a “lie”, but it eventually catches up to you, once consumers experienced the brand.  Even in the old days, there was word of mouth, but it was just really slow. 

As a consumer, search and social media have certainly changed the way we make purchases has changed.  Before going to a movie, I check IMBD to see how it scores or even read a few reviews. I might even go on Facebook and ask “who has seen the Wolf of Wall Street?” or read someone’s tweet about how much they enjoyed the movie.  While the movie might still use traditional advertising, my on-line sources bring more influence to my decision.  Before going booking a hotel, I read the reviews on Trip Advisor.  When I want an accountant, I post on-line “who knows an accountant?”.   Quite frankly, these days I’m not sure I make a purchase without doing some homework.  With instant access to a laptop or mobile, it’s easier to look stuff up then put down my visa card. 

Managing the Buying Cycle

It’s important that brands understand where they are before deciding what type of media they should use.  love-curve-detailedI use a simple model called the Brand Love Curve, where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It to a Beloved Brand for life.   At the indifferent stage, the brand is a commodity or treated like one.  It will do.  As it moves to Like It, it becomes functional, and at the Love It stage, consumers crave it.  At the Beloved Stage, it becomes a ritual, a lifestyle and a badge that consumers will argue for.  The challenge is to take the ideas of this simple love curve to your media planning.  For instance, you can’t really take a commodity-like product and say “Like Us on Facebook”.   But you can take that commodity and start to create an idea around your brand that is big enough to love, and try to push it along the Love Curve.  

Looking at the slide18Buying system, consumers generally go from Aware to Consider to Search to Buy, then they become satisfied, loyal and an outspoken fan.  Yes, at each stage consumers can influence other consumers, but the best co-creation will come from the left side of the buying system where consumers start to become proactive.  For Indifferent brands you should be trying to get noticed at the awareness and consideration stage, using search engine optimization to positively move consumers towards purchase.  But saying “Like Us on Facebook” might be the dumbest thing you could do, because you have never ever given the consumer a reason to Like You!!!   The left hand side of the buying system takes full advantage of the new social media tools, to continue to separate your brand from the competition.  If we start to think about it, this grid shows the more emotionally driven brands that push the love factor can begin having a huge competitive advantage as the most loyal consumers start selling the brand.  Back to the movie option, if I start noticing that more and more of my friends are saying positive things about a movie, that movie is going get a momentum that helps it to win at the box office, compared to the one no one is talking about.  The TV advertising for the movie is having a diminishing impact compared to the influence of consumers.  

But as the media mix has dramatically changed over the last decade,  Brand Leaders have to recognize the change in the marketing model. For generations, they talked AT the consumer, but now they have to talk WITH the consumer.  In the old school marketing, Brand Leaders were trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over again.  It was all about AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where Awareness leads to conversion to Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty.  The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where the most loyal users will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase.  It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends.

So What’s Co-Creation Mean for Brand Leaders

My hope is that it makes you think differently about how you are running your business.  Here’s a few questions to be asking.

  1. Who are the most motivated consumers?  When picking a target market, I now ask “who is the most likely to already be motivated by what we have to sell?”  That’s different from “who do we want to sell to?”  Realizing it’s easier to sell to someone who might already have a need.   If I’m selling mortgages, the simplest target audience is those who want to buy a house, not some traditionally defined target of upwardly mobile 25-35 year olds who are newly married with a baby.  Go to where people are shopping for the damn house stupid!!!  You can now find these people easily.  The difference is that your early sales will come from those who are already potentially enthusiastically engaged in the brand, the hope being that all that enthusiasm spills over to their group of friends and followers.  
  2. How do you create a tipping point?  Using Malcolm Gladwell’s thought process, instead of just thinking of a target market, maybe you should be thinking about who are the connectors, mavens and salesmen that will help fuel your brand through the Brand Love Curve.   The Connectors are the hub of a given network who know a diverse number of people and are highly socially engaged.  Mavens are those in the group we view as the smart knowledgeable one we might turn to when we are stuck or seek out a little expertise on a given subject.  These could be bloggers (Mommy groups) that consumers turn to for information.  The Salesman is the influencer in the group, the one who will convince you to finally “just go for it”. 
  3. How do you ensure you’re perfecting the Brand Experience, realizing that it matters more than ever? It’s not a coincidence that winning brands like Starbucks, Apple and the NFL are winning in today’s market.  They’ve almost perfected the experience they deliver. You can’t get by faking it with good advertising that isn’t backed up by a brilliant experience.  Yes, you can get some early trial, but a quick fizzle once people experience your brand.  Consumers who have a disastrous brand experience, get mad and seek vindication through social networking.  A friend of mine had a bad experience with his phone company and he created a Facebook group called “Canadians against Rogers” that now has 15,000 likes.
  4. How do you Create Conversations?  While brands are used to one-way monologues, it’s time to shift towards a two-way dialog, where you answer your consumers.  McDonald’s has done a great job in getting consumers to ask them questions which they answer with full transparency.  They’ve taken that transparency to every part of how they’re doing business going as far as putting the calories on their menu board. 
A challenge to your mindset:  Do you represent your brand to the consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?  



Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  Ask us, because we can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 



At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to help train you to be a better brand leader.