Forging an enduring bond with customers is at the core of what a brand is all about. What if you could add depth, vigor, and passion to that relationship by encouraging your customers to participate in the creation of the very offering they consume?
For example, Virgin Atlantic recently held an open competition to create the graphics for 20 different airsickness bags. Called Design for Chunks, the contest — nicknamed "retch for the sky" — attracted hundreds of submissions and resulted in some tasty (ahem) creations.
Over at Ducati, with an offering miles more complex than an air sickness bag, the potential for user involvement in the design process is lower. Simply put, you can’t have laypeople mucking about with the design and engineering of a superbike. Even so, working within that constraint, Ducati tries hard to make the Ducatisti feel like they’re part of the development process by encouraging them to vote on the details of future products, such as the fuel tank of the 2005 model year 999.
Examples of this kind of participative marketing are manifold, from Firefox soliciting its user base for help with product logos to Guy Kawasaki holding a design bakeoff for the cover of his new book. The point is, why not tap into the collective genius of your users? If in open source software development many brains make deep bugs shallow, then with participative marketing many brains can make shallow offerings deep.
Embrace and engage your users, get deep passion.
Great idea – what do you think about the element of adding an award or prize for customer submissions? I’m thinking of things like the Pillsbury bake-off or getting free magazine subscription to Frommer’s Budget Travel if you provide a uselful travel tip. A prize seems like it might encourage users to participate; on the other hand, it might attract prize-mongers, rather than true affficionados.