Have We Taken ‘Participation’ Too Far?

I came across this interesting letter on Katie Chatfield’s blog. It purports to be an open letter from “Brian” to the marketing industry. But whether it actually IS from a real person or not, the sentiment certainly resonates with people.

Now, because I hope/expect/want people to participate in the programs or marketing that I put together, I try to participate where I can. I contribute content and content, I comment and retweet and share. Sometimes I even do a mashup. But I do that out of a sense of reciprocity – not necessarily out of a sense of fun. Unless, of course, someone else puts the fun “in” – a good example being the @oldspice campaign. But I am predisposed towards participation – many people are not. And as “Brian” suggests, sometimes a social activation for your brand is either not relevant or (at worst) lame, but the same can be said of microsites lovingly built for the dozen or so people who actually visit.


So, the question we should ask ourselves is – have we taken participation too far? Is “Brian” right? Or are we just not trying hard enough?

11 thoughts on “Have We Taken ‘Participation’ Too Far?

  1. Brian might have a point, but it’s not like anyone is holding a gun to his head and insisting he visit the sausage microsite, or any other.

  2. Brian must talk to my sister. My sister is not a fan of word of mouth as a lead generation target. She is convinced that she is never influenced by anyone’s opinion and makes her own decisions. I think there’s a disconnect between a product recommendation and anyone who is influenced by word of mouth is a sheep.
    As much as I like where Brian is coming from, I doubt he was ever the kind of guy who would call the 1500 competition line or fill out the entry form at the local fish and chippie. Marketers still use competitions to get what they need from a campaign, mostly awareness and data. Hopefully if marketers are using UGC as a competition mechanic it’s because they need content.

  3. Great letter, but agree with some of the comments that he obviously is not the target market for that campaign, but maybe he is cause he is certainly going to remember that brand of sausages as it moved him enough to write a letter!

  4. Hey Gavin,
    I think we need to spend more time thinking about purpose.
    And what we ask of our fans or audiences needs to be in alignment with this purpose. Both from a congruence and a level of effort point of view.
    I would type more but typing sorta sucks on the iPad. 🙂

  5. I’ve often counselled clients that their brand or product might not be that interesting. Some brands or products are simply utilitarian. We want them to work as necessary and to disappear from our consciousness. Also relevance to a particular individual customer or group of customers is key to participation. Some people will find certain activities or calls to action meaningless. In that case we need to respect that decision on the part of those customers.

  6. Absolutely agree – too often we think of our own perspective (which is understandable), but that often gets in the way of delivering a valuable experience to customers.

  7. The challenge is how best to transform the relationship that you have with your customers. And while I know only so many people are interested in sausages (for example), there certainly can be opportunities for broader engagement – from recipes through to master chef lessons to taste testing new products.

  8. Great point, Mandi. Not everyone is the right audience for the type of activation you seek. Having said that, most of the time I see UGC projects and it makes me think that the agency or the product manager is just being lazy!

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