The Community Organizer


The Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote, "If you want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." Nowhere is this truer than in the field of marketing, where we have probably seen more change in the past five years than the previous 50.

The increasing sophistication of consumers, new behavior-altering technologies, channel growth, media fragmentation, and the speed of transactions and innovations, among other factors, have all combined to challenge marketers regardless of industry, size or geography. We all face the same challenge: How do we engage consumers to become brand loyalists and advocates?

One recommendation I continue to advocate strongly is the introduction of the chief community officer (CCO). We're moving away from "herd marketing," and transitioning from monologue to dialogue and engagement. Successful brands will be built through brand communities. This broader view of marketing needs to resonate from the top of an agency downward.

I like to frame the marketing process around the three Cs: conviction, collaboration and creativity. In this world, a CCO oversees the relationship between brands and their communities not just in the narrow confines of how a consumer interacts with a product at point of purchase, but also in how consumers interact with each other. These consumer-to-consumer interactions take place on the Web and on the street, and serve as a powerful influence in shaping our views and preferences.

The CCO plays four key roles in the overseeing of these relationships. The first involves recalibrating the way we think about brand building:

• Instead of developing products and services by "listening" to the market, a CCO makes sure consumers have a real voice in the process.

• Instead of just creating brand advertising, a CCO works to build a community around a brand, using multiple channels.

• Instead of focusing on pre-sale activities and seeing areas like service and support as "someone else's job," a CCO is interested in what consumers are telling the company and each other.

• Instead of just disseminating a brand message, a CCO ensures you're living the message.

• Instead of advocating for the consumer, the CCO views the entire community as the new consumer.

The second role is to understand and manage points of leverage. A CCO should be someone who understands all patterns of influence on- and offline, in much the same way a media planner understands patterns of media consumption. This means knowing the touch points of your brand community, studying their wants, needs and lifestyles, and using these insights to inform your marketing efforts.

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