Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Inspiration in Consumer Empowerment" - June 8,2007

5:45pm - My Apartment – Packing for the Weekend

Business 2.0’s June issue is about to be thrown into the garbage.

I scan the cover title and find it to be overly sensational, “The Man Who Owns the Internet.” Seriously? I couldn’t believe that Biz 2.0 would make such an outrageous claim. Then again, had some guy named Kevin Ham actually had the moxie, smarts, and due diligence to single-handedly take control of the Internet?

Ok, fine, I’ll take the magazine on the flight to Denver.

6:38pm – Civic Center Bart Station – Waiting for the Train

iPod dead. Resuscitation has no effect. R.I.P. iPod #4. Thank god I have a magazine.

8:24pm – Airplane – Killing Time

I pull the magazine from out of my bag and begin to flip through its pages. The first article is about the next best products, trends, and ideas, all of which is intriguing. The next article, “What Works: The People and the Companies That Get It”, details a handful of companies that are founded on innovative thinking and paradigm shifting practices.

I learn about this company called Threadless. Threadless was founded by two guys who knew each other in High School. They sell t-shirts, simple enough. However, there’s a twist. The designs that go onto the shirts are voted on before they even get printed, which ensures no massive failures. Better yet, all the designs are user submitted, and winners get some cash and name recognition. Buyers of the shirts earn credits for inviting friends, and get credits for sending in pictures of themselves wearing the designs. Credits can be used to purchase other shirts.

The idea has taken off like wildfire. Threadless now sells 1,500 t-shirts on an average day, and is launching a retail store in Chicago.

Here are a couple designs from Threadless to admire their awesomemity!

8:45pm – Airplane – Where the Big Idea Lives
Companies founded on principles similar to Threadless are starting to see good traction in the marketplace. This is due to a variety of factors, from widespread broadband adoption to trends in product customization to streamlined and low cost manufacturing processes. In the end, the reason they are successful is because they are giving consumers the ability to manipulate products according to THEIR specifications. Crazy idea, huh?
I was recently asked to help contribute material to help support a workshop in Cannes that is centered on “consumers in control.” According to Keith Reinhard, chairman of ad agency DDB worldwide, consumers have always been in control, it’s just that they are now finally realizing it. I believe consumers are in control because it is no longer about advertisers and marketers shoving ads and products down their mouths on 3 T.V. channels (NBC, ABC, CBS) and in huge retail chain stores(Sears Roebuck, Macy’s, Montgomery Ward).

Advertisers now have to adjust when, where, and how they communicate with their audiences, and company’s now have to study what, why, and how people are using their products. It’s no longer a one-way street where consumers are forced to take it or leave it.

What does this mean for advertisers? Maybe it’s a bar mat, maybe it’s a coupon in the newspaper, maybe it’s a viral video, or maybe it’s guerilla street team. Because consumers are able to “turn off” many of 3,000+ ads they see each day, advertisers have to be precise about when, how, and where they decided to engage with their audience. When it comes down to it, how many ads do you remember seeing yesterday? The only thing I remember is a huge outdoor ad for the Helio “Ocean” cell phone, and a TV commercial with a bunch of girls in spandex promoting the NBA.

What does this mean for consumer product manufacturers? It’s time to interact with your target audience beyond product functionality testing groups. Begin to develop products that truly meet their needs at substantiated levels. Think beyond product usage propensity statistics, and think of how your product can work with them on a psychographic level.

Consumers have always been in control, but this time they are stronger and more powerful than before. They are smarter, “weathered”, uncompromising, and not trustworthy of advertising. Technologies have empowered them with an international voice. They can mobilize, unify, and make an impact at anytime.

My company is dedicated to putting the control firmly in the hands of the consumer, with apt guidance when necessary, and helping them buy, create, or develop what they want, when they want it.

No comments: