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Smart Brands Engage Consumers

The age of the customer is also underpinned by the vast amount of user-generated content (UGC)—email, chat, tweets, comments, games—supplemented by polling, crowdsourcing, online testing, and customer clickstream data. UGC can be a rich source of information for other consumers, but importantly, also for your brand.

The new marketing research is digital, dynamic, and dedicated to the customer’s decision journey and building, nurturing, and listening to customers, customer relationships, and customer communities. For example, Frito Lay’s Doritos brand invites customers to design their own Doritos commercial in the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest; the top two winners are shown live during the Super Bowl broadcast. In 2013, the contest moved to Facebook, generating more than 100 million Facebook views of the top five ads. But more important, Doritos fans shared, liked or disliked, tweeted, and commented on the ads (one ad “Finger Cleaner” had 4.1 million views on YouTube with 10,464 likes, 633 dislikes, and 8,668 shares on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Reddit). Meanwhile, Frito Lay brand managers listened to how fans engaged with each other and with the Doritos brand narrative, providing invaluable intelligence for the brand. For example, they listened to customers’ language, personality, and recurring themes—“lots of babies, dogs, guys hitting on girls, and Cheech-and-Chong humor . . . [evoking] long-tail keywords to build natural SEO and target what consumers really want from [the] product,” said blogger Aimee Millwood.13

Ask yourself: What are your customers’ decision journeys and where does your brand engage with customers—digitally? Are you building and leveraging digital customer relationships? What kind of UGC does your company do with your customers?

To empower customers, Home Depot’s DesignConnect invites customers to join online to “Collaborate with Our Design Professionals to Create the Perfect Kitchen,” using online tools that enable customers to get things done. No more worrying about finding the time and money to hire an architect or interior designer. Do it yourself with the free consultation of a Home Depot professional—accessed via chat or email. Create, store, retrieve, and organize your design ideas online, and when you’re ready it’s easy to move to the next step—to purchase and arrange installation. The DesignConnect tool empowers customers to do what they want, when they want, in ways they want—to simply get things done.

The imperative now is for every company to do the same thing in their own market space, to build digital assets and tools that satisfy and delight customers, and enable them to do things in unique and compelling ways—with your brand as an essential complement. This means investing in engaging and alluring online sites, intuitive mobile apps, and social, video, and message assets for emailing, sharing, posting, blogging, rating, reviewing, liking, disliking, tweeting, connecting, and linking. They involve smart marketing investments in online, mobile, and messaging.

What’s the payoff for such ubiquitous investment? The customer’s sustained engagement—and loyalty. But it’s a new form of loyalty that is customer driven, not brand driven. What’s the penalty for putting off this investment? Customers opt out from your brand and move on to another more engaging one.

Ask yourself: Are you building digital assets and tools for customer empowerment and engagement? What kinds of digital assets and tools have you provided your customers to build stronger digital customer relationships?

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