Magazine article Marketing

Capturing the Imagination

Magazine article Marketing

Capturing the Imagination

Article excerpt

Is it lazy marketing to ask the public for ideas, or an effective way to engage them?

The maxim 'the customer is always right' might go some way to explaining why so many marketers are asking consumers to come up with new product ideas.

Last week, for example, Reckitt Benckiser announced a competition for members of the public to create a product as part of a global campaign to drive brand awareness. Entrants must devise an item for purchasers to use at a music festival. They will have to pitch their ideas to the company via video presentations uploaded to a dedicated competition microsite.

Skincare brand Simple, meanwhile, is assembling a panel of teenage consumers to help formulate, design and promote its first junior range, due to launch in June next year; footwear brand Hush Puppies is running a nationwide competition for over-16s to design a shoe that will be sold exclusively through retailer Schuh; and Walkers' 'Do us a flavour' campaign, which ended last month, attracted significant public participation (see panel).

It is easy to dismiss these initiatives as little more than headline-grabbing stunts that are cheaper than running traditional marketing campaigns, but Reckitt Benckiser claims it has always worked with its consumers to create products and that its latest initiative is about gaining awareness in a fun way, rather than simply for PR purposes.

'A PR stunt implies the project is trivial when it's not,' argues Andraea Dawson-Shepherd, the company's head of corporate brand marketing. 'We are not doing it to generate innovation, either.' She adds that the contest has been designed to help create a 'third dimension' to the company, and forms part of a bigger campaign.

Simple, the skincare brand, also claims its initiative is more than a publicity stunt. Instead, it is being used as a means of driving long-term commitment to the brand.

'We have never had a lack of ideas in a product development department, but we also accept we're not teenagers,' says Alex Pike, marketing director at Simple. She adds that the junior advisors' most important role is to become ambassadors that can communicate the brand message to their contemporaries.

'If we lock consumers into the brand as teenagers, we can encourage them to stay with it as they grow older,' Pike argues. …

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