We, The Makers
Cross Fertilization

It Only Works If They Do Something

Consumer participation

A long, long time ago, in 2004 in fact, I [co]wrote an article for the Financial Times about 'brandals' who had been defacing ads for the then newly minted iPod, complaining about the battery issues the first generation device had.

Later in the piece I suggested that perhaps this willingness to get involved with, or co-create as you would say now, brand communication could be a good thing since it suggested that people were involved and paying attention and that this 'open source communication' might be a way to get advertising back into the cultural conversation.

Then the world turned and consumers got creative and everything.

Later, I suggested that these co-created texts might constitute a pseudo-modern form of communication, where the text itself is collaboratively generated, moving beyond the 'death of the author' into polyphonic, truly heterglossic cultural texts. 

This kind of thing has been sped up / helped along by the nature of digitally immersed content consumers, aware of their ability to create, co-create, modulate and propagate: the participatory consumer I went on about in my thesis

This thinking is, of course, very much in line with Grant's model of cultural communication.

And it now finally seems like the industry has started to accept this point as well - unless there is SOME role for the 'audience' in the creation of the communication, it seems somehow less relevant, and so the top creative award winners all include SOME KIND of participation.

This seems to sit at the convergence of a number of different trends: the interactive nature of digital media; the dismantling of notions of authority the internet has triggered, which leads brands to use their customers to validate their utterances; the need to earn attention and reward it.

But it also seems very pertinent in the question of attitudes and behaviours.

The oldest cogent model of advertising is AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.

This is, of course, grossly simplified but in some form it is still the dominant model the industry ascribes to.

However, behavioural economics, social science and neuroscience all paint a much more complex picture.

Adrian here suggests [quite strongly in fact] that behaviour influences attitudes - and I agree - but these lovely reports Mark highlights points out that we shouldn't be fooled into binary oppositions - behaviour is influenced by all kinds of things: other people, the culture, the environment, the context, priming, anchoring, and on and on. 

Which leads me to my, very small, point.

Things like Earth Hour, which only happens if people turn their lights off, and all communication that requires people to do anything, hinges on a very specific certainty: people did something.

In fact, let's raise this to a general principle:

The reason consumer collaborative creative is considered so awesome is because IT ONLY WORKS IF THEY DO SOMETHING.

And, since, ultimately, what we are trying to do, is get people to do stuff, that is, change their behaviour, these campaigns, I suspect, strike a chord because, by their very nature, they indicate some degree of success.