I have been hearing a lot of talk – in the trades, on the blogs and in my agency – about the need for marketers to listen to the consumer and give them some of the control over the brand. Mountain Dew has taken this farther than most:
DEWmocracy.com will host an online game that will let consumers team up to design the flavor, color, name and packaging graphics for a new (presumably in-and-out) product that the brand says will debut late next year.
According to the website, the world is “governed by corporate owners [where] profit and greed rule and creative freedom is strictly forbidden” but Mountain Dew will help change that. How nice of them.
The promotion, by TracyLocke, looks cool (way more fun than the product innovation meetings I have been a part of), but VERY involved. And very much like something Dwight Schrute from NBCs The Office would get into. From the site:
“To succeed, you will need all of your cunning and strength. Each Chamber is blocked by a Guardian and ruled by a Master, epic creatures of adventure and deception. There are enemies to fight, lessons to learn, and tools to earn – like a 2-sided battle axe or a coral divining rod to point the way. And there are points to be scored. The more points you win, the greater your fame in the fellowship of Seekers everywhere.”
Well, that just ruled out everyone in my office except for the studio artist who just asked us to stop calling him “Will” and start calling him by his World of Warcraft name.
The program itself requires consumers to stay engaged over time (different “chambers” don’t open up until later in the year) and then, when they have gotten close to having their design finalized, are grouped into “teams” behind the top three flavor combinations and then vote on things like the new product logo, label and tagline.
Sort of takes away the individuality and creative freedom of it all.
But what brand REALLY wants to give up control. These UGC, consumer creation programs are strictly controlled in terms of the consumer “expression” allowed. Consumers will continue to be kept on such a short leash by any brand that executes a similar program. Because consumers aren’t professionals, don’t care about selling more product, increasing profitability, building the brand long-term or any of the objectives that we have to work against every day. Consumers can’t do creativity on demand day-in and day-out while still being on-strategy and breakthrough and all the other things advertising must be. This program, and others like it, are fun and all. And there is good one-off work by consumers out there:
But in the end, it’s shenanigans, unserious.
For the real work, the day-to-day creativity that builds brands and drives results…leave it to the professionals.
Like Mountain Dew is doing. The intro movie is an uplifting pean to consumer control, but in the end consumers only get quasi-control to vote on brand-approved innovation and marketing graphics.