Monday, November 10, 2008

Community Marketing ... A model for trust?

A recent throw-away line by my friend Chris Beaumont got me to thinking. "I'm thinking about new ways of marketing". Hmm - provocative stuff indeed.

There are plenty of advocates for a sweet blend of anarchy in the new social media world, like the Cluetrain guys who started it all or Seth Godin. But it seems to me that there is room for a little discipline and lots of method. I agree with the Cluetrain guys when they say that a connected market place has more in common with the souk than the post-war mass advertising maelstrom. I agree with Seth when he says that no-one "owns" a community, and right of participation has to be earned.

But I also believe that you can build a disciplined digital community marketing model for brands and people. I suggest that the principles are:
  1. real two-way (multi-way?) interaction around the brand premise and promise;
  2. no less than 100% transparency;
  3. measurable intrinsic and extrinsic benefit for both consumers and brand-owners;
  4. ongoing incentive for participation; and
  5. commitment by brands to act on the voice of the community.

That sounds really esoteric - but I think that we could build a simple model for this. That model would allow brands to understand what their role should be, yet provide clear imperatives for investment with solid measurement criteria. It could also provide a "bill of rights" for consumers via a code of behavior with which to hold brands accountable. Something beyond WOMMA, something that focused on mutual obligation and benefit.

One key failure of current marketing practise is that it relies on companies selling brands instead of people buying brands. Way too much focus on one party, with a consequent loss of individuality and informality... which gives rise to "over-sell" by one side of the conversation, and cynicism by the other. What if we set that to rights via a new paradigm? What if we restored the value of trust?

I'd be really interested in feedback around this idea. Feels like the start of something...

Thought for the Day: What if brands behaved like people? Maybe there's a way to build a new model for community marketing that depends on trust rather than pitch.

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