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Imagine that you are a Marketing Manager tasked with the initial launch of a new product. What do you decide to do? You decide to conceal the product from the consumer. But surely that’s utter madness? Perhaps – or perhaps not. Let’s just think about this for a moment…
In the world of the Internet, you can get your hands on anything you want and everything is cheap or even completely free. In this environment, is anything still of any real value? As ever, the most valuable commodities are the ones that are least available – exclusivity, secrecy, all the things money can’t buy. Let’s assume that you work as a Marketing Manager for a beverage company and the product in question is a new energy drink for party-goers called “GO energyPARTY”. You recently set up a social network called V.I.D.P. (Very Important Drinking Persons). The people who visit this network chat about drinks trends, which fast-food chains have the best drinks and where you can find the coolest parties. They can also post photos of parties they’ve been to. And here’s the secret – they would also post design ideas for drinks packaging if you asked them to. So, with that in mind, you ask the V.I.D.P. community for help in designing a can for a brand new drink.
You then feed the community with carefully selected snippets of information to build up the hype before finally sending each member a sample of the exciting new “GO energyPARTY” drink.
What happens then? Well, the community members are certain to take the drink to a party and tell everyone how they were involved in creating the funky packaging. They’ll also attract attention from people who want to know what this cool new drink is – and when they find out it’s not available in the shops, they’ll be even more intrigued! After a few weeks, and once the hype spread by word of mouth has reached its peak, normal sales activities swing into action. What’s the bet that the product will rapidly take pride of place in retailers’ fridges?
In the Internet world, the boundaries between offline and online, between marketing and sales, between provider and customer often become blurred. In many cases, the traditional approach of viewing consumers as a customer segment, an amorphous mass that shares the same run-of-the-mill qualities will not bring success. After all, we exist in a system of complex social networks and cannot afford to ignore the rules that govern them.