John McCann

Participate in brand creation

In Co-create on April 3, 2006 at 12:03 pm

A recent Julie Bosman column in the New York Times reported on a conference of the Association of National Advertisers about the future of advertising and how various networks and advertisers were coping with the movement of some advertising to the Internet. I was particularly struck by her story of how Converse was expanding their approach to include participation by anyone interested in their products.

Converse presented a case study on how to integrate Internet and television with a viral campaign that solicited homemade videos from the public. After asking consumers to send in videos featuring Converse sneakers, Converse received more than 1,500 entries from 20 countries and posted them on The campaign also latched onto the trend of consumers being obsessed with user-generated content. "We're trying to blow the barrier between brand and consumer," said Erick Soderstrom, the senior director of global brand development for Converse.

What does "blow the barrier between brand and consumer" mean? In the context of this story, it seems to be about moving away from the notion that a brand is something that is developed by a company such as Converse and then pushed on people. Converse develops the brand and pushes it over the barrier to people. Tearing down that barrier involves getting people to help create the brand by generating their own content that features the products. Thus the brand is a co-creation.

C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy had an article in January 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review about this general topic, which they called "Co-opting Customer Confidence" to indicate that a firm like Converse could tap into the competence of their customers to develop a better product. A short synopsis of their argument is available here. In Converse's case, they co-opted their customers competence to produce better communications.

In any case, it is refreshing to see a company such as Converse taking steps to allow us to participate in their brand.


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