The Age of Participation

Here’s a summary of the Seminar we’re giving at Cannes on Tuesday next week.

“The more in control we are, the more out of touch we become. But the more willing we are to let go a little, the more we’re finding we get in touch with consumers.”

We live in a world where getting the consumers attention is harder than ever. Not only can they watch more channels, listen to more radio stations, read more blogs and get more text alerts on any subject under the sun, but they increasingly switch off from the hundreds of thousands of advertising messages confronting them everyday. Continue reading “The Age of Participation”

Please be my friend…

 Buy an apple and have more friends  

Apple invades another social networking hit of the moment… FACEBOOK.  In predictable style, Apple re-enforces that buying one of their shiny ‘puders is more than a just purchasing an average lapdog - Apple now gives you lots of iFriends…  come on kids, join the Apple Community - a social movement that makes you cooler than wearing Lynx or Impulse ever could. 400K students can’t be wrong… you can even have some free tracks for your iPod and your lifestyle statement is complete.

H & M will ask Kylie if she'll go out with you If you’re not convinced with that and perhaps wearing some cheap (but ethical) clothes from Hennes is how you define yourself; you can be their friend too… and you never know you might get to be friends with Kylie’s bum. 

Redbull does CMBEven Redbull is in on the act… who’s for a game of CMB? … I can hear Charlie Brooker laughing from here. 

I’m addicted but I liked it more when it was just The Idiots who’d entered the building.

Turquoise Sea at Bank Tube Station

Thumbnail of poster advertising the Maldives as a holiday destination

I saw this rather appealing tube poster at Bank the other day. It was advertising the Maldives as a holiday destination. “The tick box” idea is an old one, but this ad’s been created with a bit of style. It uses lovely images of the Maldives rather than just type and boxes. This enables you to visually create your perfect holiday.

As the art direction resonates online form graphics I noted the web address. Surprisingly though the site doesn’t follow through. No microsite, nothing. It looks like it was designed by a different agency (which of course it probably was).

What a wasted opportunity. An easy extension of this idea would be to enable users to visually create their own perfect holiday on their PC. Once they’ve done this, they could then email it to the person they’re going on holiday with, get some Participation going. Or even use the visual tick box idea as a new and involving way to maintain “stickability” at the online booking stage.

Maybe a digital execution does exist out there somewhere, if it does I can’t find it. An example of client and agency not joining up their advertising thinking. Not Participation Marketing I’m afraid!

The future is No-future

When I was at school we used to play around with a BBC micro and phone coupler. 900 baud modems were wonderful technology and bulletin boards were mainly populated by a SysOp and a handful of geeks, all displayed in glorious teletext.


Roll forward a few decades, add broadband, invent a few marketing acronyms and suddenly the population online is even my 70 year old mum. Household names are spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to get you to just look at their website once, possibly twice and nought-point something to actually care. Forget your eBays and Amazons, even your Tescos online – nobody really loves them beyond their commoditised products and optimised functionality.


Online today, like in the real world, the real successes are communities… and many of these have brand equity others would die for. However, these are not the well known brands we see when we walk down our clone high streets or flick through our morning paper. Real love is given to online communities that tap into something that people are really passionate about.


Personally, the online community I really love is called No-future; a record label and forum set-up by a musician called Cristian Vogel.  No-future aims to cost effectively sell more records and get more gig bookings. Something that it has definitely achieved. It also has its own erutufon brand identity and a very strong brand personality.


But why does No-future attract hundreds of the leading underground musicians across the globe and tens of thousands of their fans? Why do people participate in the community day after day, week in week out? Why do other forums recognise No-future as one of the strongest online communities, even if others have more eyeballs?


Three things seem to make No-future loved; loved in a way that millions of advertising budget does not often seem to create:


  • There is a common interest that links everybody together; in this case a passion for a certain type of music. This forms a basic ethos that everybody believes in and respects.

  • Most of the content is not about selling a product – it is user generated and reflects users’ thoughts, interests, activities and observations. This freedom of expression earns the right to talk about the things you want to sell.

  • Moderation is strictly only in extreme circumstances – nobody deletes anything just because it swerves away from the core brand message. Nobody insists that you are positive or demands control of which conversations are allowed – and which are not.

It seems that many household names would have more success online if they dropped their conservative fear of what might happen and endless grab for short-term sales.


The best strategic focus is to build long-term communities and if you are lucky, you’ll earn a lot of love for your brand. You never know, you might even sell a lot more widgets and have many people talking about your brand.