More thoughts on how planners and creatives create value (and how consumers cut themselves in on the action)

Paul Paul Snyderman was kind enough to write me a couple of days ago:

His question:

Like so many other things in the marketing research world, I've gotten as many explanations of "co-creation" as there are people that I've asked.
Your blog item about the Snapple commercial notes the co-creation "peg" – which makes all the sense in the world.  But, most of the explanations – and their associated methods – of achieving co-creation sound more like having the target customer "design" the promotion.
It seems that you're describing a process by which the target customer has such an authentic affinity for the advertising, that the ad has even greater effectiveness for the viewing target, and also the level of emotionality results in the target promoting the brand or the ad to others.
So, […] what's the deal?

My answer:

Paul, for me cocreation is a matter of creating something in the product that so appeals to the consumer that this consumer wants to pass it along to others for his or her own purposes.  I see an ad I love, I sent it to you.  I do something for the brand in question obviously, but I also do something for my own standing in the world.  I am seen to be (or I hope I am seen to be) the kind of guy who can identify good stuff, who passes it along in the manner of an early adopter, who creates a little cultural capital for himself by associating myself with the ad. 

At the base of this version of cocreation, I am an economic actor who is incented by the quality of the ad and or product to pass knowledge of same along to friends and strangers.  My "fee;" an augmentation of my standing in the world. 

There is a more elaborate argument here, one that talks about the fact that for many people especially more junior generations, the social network is crucial as a source of life partners, business partners, social standing.  And these networks are mushroom like, hydraulic in a manner of speaking.  These networks wither and die unless they are constantly fed, and when I send an ad through my network I sustain it. 

What I hadn't guite seen before is that this ties back to the quality of the ad, and not in just some general sense, but in some more particular one.  And this is why Google can't make ads.  Only very talented advertising people can.  And their source of value here comes from their mastery of the social and cultural details with which they make the ad richer, more engaging and more endearing. 

As usual, everything comes back to this for me.  

Best, Grant

Post script

There is an idea struggling to break free here, and I haven't quite identified it.  Paul will no doubt do this for me.  He's very smart.  But I think it helps me see something about the agency model that can perhaps serve as part of its defense in this perilous times: that agency people, especially planners and creatives control an essential technology, a knowledge of the fine details, one might say, the secret details of social life and our culture, and that these fine and secret details are an essential part of the process by which the ad creates value for the brand and the client.  Thoughts only.  Thank you, Paul!

5 thoughts on “More thoughts on how planners and creatives create value (and how consumers cut themselves in on the action)

  1. Andres B

    Grant, I think your description fits better in the context/area of viral marketing, than in relation to co-creation (a term/concept I can’t take seriously now because of wide misuse by buzzword mesiahs).
    Looking at the elements listed here: you can identify some traits you describe “I saw it first,” “It makes me look good,” “It’s easy to insert myself in the process,” etc.
    According to the linked post, a complete viral marketing strategy:
    1) Gives away products or services
    2) Provides for effortless transfer to others
    3) Scales easily from small to very large
    4) Exploits common motivations and behaviors
    5) Utilizes existing communication networks
    6) Takes advantage of others’ resources

    Cheers from Mexico, your blog is always great mind-fertilizer 🙂

  2. Taylor Davidson

    I struggle with the notion of consumers “co-creating” adverts through passing them on; perhaps the context where the idea applies are “adverts as experiences” or “adverts as value exchanges”, where creatives can embed interactions into the advert, where interactions between people are the experiences, where people take their “fee” (compensation) as the respect / notoriety / etc. through the exchange.

    Is it possible to “co-create” an advert for a product/service without building co-creation into the product/service itself?

  3. peter spear

    what I love about the way that you describe co-creation is that it breaks it out from the designer box – which, many of your readers (or at least one) has indicated has come to represent the industry definition of the term. co-creation, so far as I understand it, is not a design function, that is – the empowering of the brand customer to create, with the brand in mind, a new product or service.

    This has always struck me as terrifically lazy way of thinking about the brand users role in the relationship (and most likely very profitable for those who engage in it).

    Brands, we can agree (according to the mandate that brands create meaning), are the property of the consumer, and, as such, co-creation is not limited to product experiences or innovations. This, for me, is what gets beautiful about your definition.

    A co-creative advertising moment is cooperative by having already acknowledged some insider truth, some relevant wink, some acute know-how – in order to even raise the eyebrows of the intended audience.

    Which leads me to think that maybe co-creation is both old and new. Old in that brands have always been the property of the consumer and new in the sense that only recently has it become so competitive that brands have been required to sport some cultural insidership that inspires the affection of a particular culture.

  4. Patrick Pearce

    Co-creation in the well-created advertising sense would seem to involve a process of cognitive completion, wouldn’t it? That is, the viewer/participant “gets” the ad, by filling in the blank, be it with “insider-like” or “selected group in the know-like” knowledge, humor, vocabulary, or way of looking at the world. “2nd degree” type ads which have been popular in many European countries for a long time now are a perfect example of this.

    Co-creation in the sense of passing on or talking about an online version of an ad or a viral video seems to me to be a very different beast. A more precise term for this might be “media co-creation” or that buzzword from the 90s “media synergy”.

    Co-creation in the product or service experience sense is of course the ultimate kind, where the user personalizes the offering to his or her needs, tops their Cornflakes with yogurt-covered raisins, hangs their Air Jordans (or What the Dunks now) on the wall as a trophy, lists favourite bands and books on their myspace or Facebook pages. People used to call this “consumer-brand involvement”.

    But you gotta admit, co-creation is a sexy word, one that works as a good handle for this sudden rush of consumer insights that used to be the realm of us strategic planner/brand consultant/creative types, but now is much more available for all those who are curious enough to dig, tap, twitter and blog.

  5. Grant McCracken

    Patrick, I like this idea a lot. The notion of cocreation kind of democratized what was once a special domain for the likes of us. Only we could venture out into the world and divine what the consumer was “really” thinking. Disintermediation. I hate it when that happens. Thanks again, Grant

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