“The Role of the Consumer”

When they feel they’re safely talking amongst themselves, big business marketers get honest.  Take the case of a thought piece in the latest issue of Advertising Age by one Andy Gould, senior VP of an ad agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Gould’s complaint:

Too Many Campaigns Still Ignoring the Role of the Consumer

OK.  So what is “the role of the consumer”?  Perhaps being asked whether you think using old growth timber to make toilet paper softer is something our society should be tolerating?

mouse maze Not quite.  Turns out the role Gould, whose firm works on the Cottonelle account for Kimberly-Clark, has reserved for “the consumer” is rather less substantial:

As I look back at two of our most successful campaigns this year, all the agencies involved identified the role of the consumer very early on. For Cottonelle’s Roll Poll, we decided every piece of communication should be geared toward getting people to vote on which way they rolled their toilet paper (over or under). For the Pop-Tarts Flavor Tournament, we wanted to put 20 flavors head to head in a March-Madness-style bracket, and have teens influence the outcome of each matchup until we had named a champion. Determining these things at the beginning of the process (at the same time as the messaging piece) gave us the time to make the work more interactive, and allowed us to structure things so that what users did and said during the campaign actually impacted the creative work.

Giving consumers something to do is one of the musts of digital work, but even outside of the digital realm, I think many of us believe it’s the best way to connect with people today. Doesn’t work that actually requires something of the consumer stand a better chance of creating genuine impact

And some people still dare to suggest that capitalism and democracy are two different things!