March 16, 2008

These days, online consumers and companies are collaborating on a range of activities, including R&D, marketing and after-sales support.

Here are a few examples of how brands and consumers are working together online:


Companies turn to the pubic to solve particular problems. The bestselling book Wikinomics described how Goldcorp, a Canadian gold mining company, published its geological data and offered prize money to prospectors who submitted the best estimates of the value and location of the gold on the company's property.


By monitoring community forums and speaking directly with online opinion leaders, consumer brand manufacturers come up with ideas for new products and improvements and enhancements to existing products.

For example, Dell IdeaStorm is an online community where customers post their ideas on Dell products.


Major consumer brands such as American Apparel, Frito-Lay, L'Oreal, Sony and Toyota have used consumer-created ads.

Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, drew a lot of publicity when it invited people to create and shoot their own 30-second Doritos commercial for a chance to have it viewed during Super Bowl XLI in February 2007. More than 1,000 submissions were received.

Enthusiasm for advertising around user-generated content is more than experimental. It is based on a sense that consumer media tastes are changing. Nearly seven out of 10 online marketers surveyed by iMedia Connection in February 2008 said that they thought traditional media would lose dollars to user-generated content.


Social shopping sites, blogs and Web sites with customer ratings and reviews are all venues for people to review and recommend products and describe how to use them.

Kaboodle allows retailers to have a profile and interact with site members. ThisNext, another social shopping site, invites Web retailers to submit unique products for community members to discover and promote.

US Internet users clamor to express their opinion online, judging by a Forrester Research study conducted in the third quarter of 2007. More respondents said they wanted Web sites to offer "user ratings and reviews" than any other site content or functionality.

After-Sales Support

Apple and Dell are examples of consumer electronics manufacturers that host community forums on their sites where customers assist other customers with technical problems.

"Throughout the 20th century, we've had this view that talent is inside the company," said Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics, in a March 2008 New York Times article.

"But with the Web, collaboration costs are dropping outside the boundaries of companies, so the world can become our talent," he said.

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