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Monday, June 23, 2008

Forget Your Product, Market to the People

Last weekend, I plowed through 2 1/2 books: The Wisdom of Crowds, Groundswell, and The World is Flat.

While the subject matter is the same (technology and aggregation allow a more collaborative environment without geographic and monetary constraints), each takes on the concept from a different angle.

But the reality is this: companies are looking for ways to aggregate communities even if it's not directly tied to their core business.

Chris Brogan points out that American Express is doing just that with its OPEN Forum, which aggregates blog and business information in one place and encourages conversation in a sponsored area with the hopes of subtly marketing to people who have an interest in business information (e.g. potential American Express users).

When you think about it, the concept is a no-brainer. We trust people more when we don't feel like they are selling us on something. It's why we hate ads -- and marketing.

The current thinking amongst digital marketers is that it's better to create a community-driven site around an interest -- say business news -- and provide less up-front marketing later.

Procter & Gamble did something similar, which I read about in Groundswell. They wanted to market tampons to girl -- but quite readily realized nobody wanted to join the tampon social network. Instead, they created Being Girl, a website dedicated to pre- and early teen life.

The result: once you get the community going, it builds on itself -- and if you listen closely (and helpfully participate), you have access to a cadre of willing customers. Of course, that means sometimes you're going to hear things you don't like; however, that's the point. If you respond well (by say, fixing a problem), you've gained trust.

By Brad at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

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