From Entertaining to Collaborating

Ted Shelton Vice President, Cognizant Business Consulting

Posted on April 1st 2014

From Entertaining to Collaborating

ImageIn my article From Advertising to Engagement, I outlined the three crucial transitions that organizations need to go through when implementing social as a core competency in their marketing activities. In my last post I outlined the first of these three:

From Interrupting to Connecting -- the new marketing style starts with the curation of communities.

In this post I will address the second:

From Entertaining to Collaborating -- your customers have things they want to do, and when you connect with them instead of interrupting them, you have a chance to work with them.

And then will go on in a third post to address the final area: from informing to supporting. 


Let's start by understanding how marketers currently work at making us see interruptions (advertising) as not being interruptions. What could make an advertisement not seem to be an interruption? When it makes us laugh? When it is art? Although not everyone can agree on what is funny, or what is art, or, more broadly, what is entertaining, these approaches have been the primary tools of the advertising industry to rise above the simple annoyance of interruption discussed in the last article.

And to be sure, many advertisements are entertaining. Great advertising is in its own way an art form and the creative talents that work on these advertisements are often very successful in creating memorable images, taglines, and even stories. The best of these seep into our culture and become a part of the way we talk and the way we think about the world.

But very few "entertaining" advertisements are as entertaining the second, third, or fourth time we see them. Typically the laugh or the art in advertising is ephemeral. And even when an ad does have a lasting and memorable impact, it can be very difficult for the average consumer to remember the connection between the ad and the advertiser. A whole industry has developed side by side with advertising to measure the success of such advertising and to understand whether people watching an entertaining advertisement actually remember with which brand it was associated. And if they do remember, is the association positive?

But the real question the marketer should be asking, especially in the connected age where they should be focused on engagement is when and how entertainment should be used as the content strategy for getting people's attention. In the high art of advertising, marketers merely presume that it is less irritating to make an interruption that entertains.

But marketers can do so much more, even using the building block of entertainment -- in focusing on engagement with customers, marketers can transition from merely entertaining to collaborating.


As discused in my last article, customers don't want to be interrupted, even if that interruption is entertaining. When we go to a movie theater or the symphony we are chosing to be entertained by a particular medium for a particular length of time. In these cases we are "collaborating" in a certain very limited sense in that we have elected to become a part of an audience. When an advertisement pops up in the middle of a favorite television show, we have not chosen to be an audience for that message -- it is merely interrupting. But marketers can use collaboration as a way to get us to choose to be engaged with a company's message.

Collaboration can take a number of forms: example archetypes are:

1) commentary on content

2) co-creation of content

3) user-generated content

4) collective action or problem solving

Where entertainment was an attempt to add value to interruption, collaboration can be an activity which adds value to connection. Collaboration can engage companies with their markets around new product development, marketing a product, selling a product, or extending a product experience through some new activity related to the product.

Starbucks, for example, asks people to work together and with the company to develop ideas that improve their stores. Cadbury created Jivebrow in order to invite fans of their chocolates to create new versions of their television advertisement. And Lego has supported and contributed to a number of independent collaboration communities around its bricks, including BrickWiki which offers detailed information, all collaboratively created, on building elaborate projects with Legos.

How each company decides to build collaboration with a market will depend upon the objectives the company has for engagement, the type of customers the company wishes to connect with, what the interests of those customers are, and how a collaboration activity relates back to the core values of the company. The most successful collaboration exercises are those that build ongoing engagement that brings a community together and is an engine for growing that community. Episodic efforts like Cadbury's Jivebrow can achieve specific goals, in this case, making their interrupting television ads more "valuable" to their customers, but the campaign had little value to the company a few months later as it didn't attract and retain their customers to an ongoing engagement with the brand.
Brands should be using collaboration initiatives as opportunities to build relationships with customers, bringing more data about the customers into a company's customer information systems, earning permission to interact more frequently with these customers, and ultimately encouraging loyalty and advocacy by these customers. This is the most powerful engine for improving the return on investment for marketing spend - when your customers help tell the market about your company and products.
In the next article I will expand on these thoughts and explore how to move from merely informing to actively supporting your communities of customers.

Ted Shelton

Vice President, Cognizant Business Consulting

Ted has spent over 20 years working in product development, marketing, and as a senior executive in both public and privately held companies. For the five year prior to joining PwC, Ted was a partner with a small consulting firm working with clients on social business models for innovation and building market ecosystems. Previously, he served as the Chief Strategy Officer of Borland Software and Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for WhoWhere (acquired by Lycos in 1998).

Author of "Business Models For the Social Mobile Cloud published in February 2013 by John Wiley & Sons

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