Customers have say in marketing, too

Consumers should be given role in company's marketing efforts as social networks take them to forefront of product branding and innovation.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

SINGAPORE--As consumers proliferate through social networks, companies too have become part of those communities. As such businesses must gear their marketing efforts towards this new reality.

David Rogers, executive director at the Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership, said companies can no longer see themselves as the originator of marketing information because they are not the only ones sending out product messages, and are now part of a larger community that encompasses its users.

Customers, too, want to share their ideas through social media such as blogs, forums, viral videos and social networks, said Rogers, during his presentation on "marketing to customer networks" at the BRITE-Asia 2009 Conference here Thursday. Hosted by the Singapore Management University's Centre for Marketing Excellence and Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership, the event is part of a series of global conferences, workshops and leadership summits on branding, innovation, and technology.

Rogers noted that companies "get caught up in the latest gizmos in social media", but marketers need to relate closely to user behavior for effective collaboration with customers.

One such behavioral trait points to the need for customer networks to be sensory and interactive and to provide relevant digital content, Rogers said. "People want rich content and media. Interactive games are very important for companies to understand [for their marketing efforts]," he added.

When companies facilitate avenues that let users share insights on their products, customers feel they have a role in the brand, he noted.

An example is the Connect + Develop site, Rogers said, which Procter & Gamble (P&G) designed to facilitate both inbound and outbound "open innovation". This includes work on trademarks, packaging, marketing models, engineering, business services and design.

P&G stated on the site: "The world is more connected… There are millions of scientists, engineers and other companies globally. Why not collaborate with them?"

Dennis Susay, Merrill Lynch's Pacific Rim regional director and head of branding and corporate marketing, advised companies to "have great products based on consumer insights".

"Don't just sell a feature. Create an emotional attachment," said Susay, who was also a speaker at BRITE-Asia 2009.

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