A NEW SPIRIT IS TAKING HOLD IN THE MEDIA AND BRAND LANDSCAPE. IT IS A KIND OF “ENLIGHTENMENT-RELOADED”.
The mature user wants to have a say, refuses the brand monologue, demands transparency, sustainability, diversity, sincerity and personal communication. What drives people to engage, makes them ambassadors? How do brands become a relevant player in the new participatory society? And: What can we learn from this? We got to the bottom of these questions during our second excursion with the theme “To Produce Involvement.” We networked and facilitated a close dialogue, perhaps even a discourse. Together, we visited companies and brands that are pioneers and inventors of participatory concepts: Airbnb, International Civil Society Centre (ICSC), Paper & Tea, Startnext and taz. Retrospectively, three aspects seem to us to be of particular importance for the successful involvement of fans, customers, citizens or fellow campaigners:
All of our hosts are characterized by the special courage to initiate their own heartfelt project, but then to trustingly place it in the hands of the community and to remain open to results. The courage to expose oneself and not accept criticism, perhaps even disinterest or rejection, and to develop the idea further together with the community, even at the risk that it will belong to everyone rather than to one person. Putting one’s own brand in the hands of strangers and accepting a loss of control is probably one of the greatest challenges facing global and traditional companies in this context.
What all protagonists have in common is that they are sincere and do not play with the trust placed in them. Involvement only works if it is practiced honestly and transparently, without ulterior motives. It succeeds when people do not see themselves misused as advertising space or growth drivers, but can really make a difference. Only then can they become enthusiastic and credible ambassadors of a brand.
And then there is this last aspect, which seems to be difficult to realize especially for complex and global organizations of the “old world”, be it civil societies or DAX corporations – freedom for experimentation. Or, in other words: that certain lack of preconceptions that lets us just do things for a change. It requires the joy of the truly new – despite the awareness that it can also fail. Then stories and products with substance emerge that we want to join. This requires new structures that give people with empathy, vision and willpower – in short, doers – more freedom. And so, on both sides, it is people and not abstract labels that influence how successful a collaboration is. Is all this effort really worth it? The well-deserved thanks for sincere participation is the chance of a community that can forgive where mistakes occur, that supports, perhaps even rescues, when there is a fire, and that remains loyal in a time in which trends, fashions and opinions change daily.