3 Ways to Add Customer Interaction Into the Marketing Plan

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The Internet is firmly and permanently entrenched in today’s mainstream culture, allowing consumers to be increasingly interactive. For example, “Google” is now a verb as well as a search engine. Also, user-driven sites (such as MySpace and YouTube) regularly make headline news. Marketers must recognize that people are willing and technologically able to contribute to the creation and marketing of items they consume and include this phenomenon in the marketing plan.

As marketers and business managers, we should be thinking about how to get consumers involved with our products, services and ideas through the Internet. As you read the following ideas, think about how you can incorporate the core idea of each into your own marketing plan.

Video-Based Contests

Several advertisers have recently held commercial contests where contestants display their original commercials on one of the video sharing Websites. Online viewers then vote for their favorites.

Super Bowl XLI is an example. Frito-Lay is inviting people to submit commercials for a chance to have their’s used in the Doritos 2007 Super Bowl ad. The entries are uploaded to Yahoo! Video, where visitors will chose the winner from five finalists. Other advertisers — including the NFL itself and Chevrolet — are holding commercial contests as well.

You don’t have to have a Super Bowl sized budget to hold a video-based contest and the entries do not have to be commercials. Coca-Cola and Mentos sponsored a contest where entrants created a volcano using the companies’ products then submitted a clip of the result in action.

Customized Product Variations

At Dell you can configure and order your own computer online. It is then assembled to order and shipped to your home. In the music industry, some bands give away freeware that allow users to remix the band’s songs. In essence, each listener creates his/her unique version of the song. For your own products, think of ways the Internet can help customers customize your products to make them uniquely their own.

Viral Videos

Viral online marketing and advertising — the sharing of various entertaining or interesting content by consumers — have been around since at least the mid-90’s. Video sharing increases a company’s potential to make an impact when product-related videos go viral.

For example, Yahoo’s “Current Buzz” recently featured a series of consumer-created videos of Tickle Me Elmo Extreme laughing himself off the shelves. A YouTube.com search for “TMX Elmo” returned about 250 videos.

Elmo’s 250 doesn’t hold a candle to Mentos’ 9800+ videos. These are mostly result of the previously mentioned Mentos/Coke geyser video contest in conjunction with YouTube. 150 entered, plus the contest set off a viral frenzy as countless people shared the videos.

In addition to consumer attention, these videos are attracting media attention. Besides the previously mentioned Current Buzz spot, Mythbusters, Money/CNN and David Letterman have featured stories as a result of videos.

While most brands don’t have the pull of a Tickle Me Elmo or Coke to gain worldwide attention, all products have fans. No matter what your size (1) reaching your fans, (2) involving them with your product and (3) encouraging interaction can build profit and brand equity.

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write by Layton Johnson

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