Threadless.com – Customer Driven Innovation/Design

Threadless.com is a T-Shirt company and it has some of the coolest, most beautiful, original T-Shirts I’ve ever seen. Not only that, almost all their designs are “award winners”, in other words Threadless.com is an ongoing T-Shirt competition, in which its customers submit designs and its customers vote on designs they like and if that wasn’t enough its customers also submit photo’s of T-shirt sightings, phew. In this case though customers is almost inaccurate, i mean, they are psudo employees.

Take a look at this frequently asked question:Who designs the Threadless product?
You do!

Threadless.com is an on-going tee shirt design competition, anyone can submit their design and if it gets a high enough score and is chosen by the Threadless crew it will be printed and sold from the site.

Most of the product found on Threadless is a result of the competition. A few of the shirts were printed outside of the contest, some of which were commissioned by Threadless to various well-known designers.

Because Threadless offers a serious cash prize for winners $1500 + $500 worth of credit with Threadless, they get some serious entries from a lot of great designers. For designers that win they get plenty of publicity from it as well.

The interesting thing about this model is it brings up lots of questions of trust, money and ownership. In other-words Threadless only works because of the very high level of trust between the people submitting designs and the people running Threadless.

It is interesting to look at because companies that want to build deeper relationships with customers, and take advantage of WOM, “consumer generated” content, and other more valuable interactions must build trust. Without a fundamental foundation of trust attempts at this kind of marketing will either wither and die, or backfire entirely.

Here are some things that I think help build trust:

  • Authenticity – an amorphous term I know, but just try and be genuine, stay away from traditional marketing superlatives and hyperbole
  • Transparency – not only talk about what’s happening, what your doing, make feedback and your responses transparent
  • Humility – be more human, don’t try and be perfect, and don’t pretend you are either
  • Constancy – in visual look, action, words, and behavior

I’d be glad to hear more ideas for how to build trust, I find it a fascinating topic.

Bullying a Bully – Giving GM a Noogie, and the Chevy Tahoe a Chinese Burn

Have you ever got in a fight with someone and ended up much better friends? Well I wonder if all the people out there who are slapping GM around with the Chevy Apprentice “negative ads” aren’t actually putting more of a human face on GM? After we slap around the bully aren’t we now somewhat more connected to them? They respect us more, and we realize that they are just a product of their bad upbringing.

I mean, take a look at this ad and don’t tell me you feel a bit better about GM, even if it’s just because it calls the Chevy Tahoe gay.

I’m not going to run out and buy a Tahoe, but somehow GM has managed to humanize themselves just a little bit by not taking down all the negative ads that were created for them.

There’s now an entire site dedicated to voting on the negative ads, go take a look and prepare to be blown away by the creativity

BTW from a publicity standpoint this is an absolute slam dunk, picked up by New York Times, CNET, Nightline, rocketboom (yes, that’s right nightline and rocketboom in the same sentence

Marketing Monger Podcast

Eric Mattson of Marketing Monger is in the process of doing 1,000 podcasts around marketing topics, and i’m glad to say I am interviewed on number 76. Lots of topics covered from co-creation, value chains, competitive advantage, and viral marketing. I talk again on the idea that companies need to have a portfolio of viral experiments, and on a related note check out this comment on JaffeJuice about the 24 hour ad agency

“The 24 Hour Ad Agency.” The focus isn’t on spending 4 months crafting the hell out of a 4-color magazine spread, but on creating new ads hourly, even minute-ly. Match the audience’s appetite for content, versus just living up to the agency and client’s abilities to clock thousands of hours on one idea. It’s as much about constantly measuring the pulse of society and the client brand in that environment, as it is reacting almost instantly to the culture.

Co-Creation a big topic at marketing innovation conference

I was just listening to the For Immediate Release Podcast (which I highly recommend), in which they were interviewing Larry Weber, Chairman W2 Group, a holding company for marketing 2.0 companies. Now, that is pretty interesting in its own right, but the thing that really struck me was when during the interview they brought up that “co-creation” had been a bit of a buzzword at the marketing innovation conference. Well I like the sound of that, talk about a little validation. Anyway, I found the schedule for day one, the “CMO summit” and low and behold it seemed they talked about co-creation all day. Damn, I wish I had known about it and I wish i’d gone. Models for innovation: creating successful new products and services
New product innovations are increasingly involving co-creation with customers and partners. What other innovation processes are working and how can they interact with co-creation? Case studies will be discussed, successful (and unsuccessful) strategies shared, new methodologies analyzed, and existing approaches that work affirmed.

“Inside Blogs Survey” – A call for participation

Dr Nora Barnes of the University of Massachussettes Dartmouth, is doing a study on blogs, and as opposed to some student study, Dr Barnes seemed to have some nice credentials. Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director, UMD Center for Marketing Research. I don’t know what it means, but it sounds pretty legit :-)

Here’s the stated goal for the project: This is the first academic study of the behind the scene of blogs. I am hoping to be able to create a sense of what makes a blog work (or not work) and put together an inventory of great advice for new and perspective bloggers.

You can download the survey here Inside Blogs Survey

and email it to Dr Nora Barnes My name is Nora Barnes and I am a professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Currently I am conducting the first academic study on blogs, and would appreciate your help. I hope to be able to report on what motivates bloggers, how they handle legal and ethical issues, and how blogs have helped promote businesses or views.

I would really be pleased if I could include you in my study. The survey is short and should take less than five minutes. I would be happy to email, fax, or call you. Please let me know if I can contact you and what the best way might be. I would be happy to share the findings of my study with you and send you a gift for participating. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dr. Nora Barnes

Feel free to pass this on as the more bloggers that respond the better, maybe even add this tag to any posts about it: umass_blog_study

Exponential Marketing Through Customer Experience

It has occured to me that the hierarchy of customer experience forms an interesting foundation when thinking about modern marketing. I’ve used the term “expontential marketing” because customers co-creating value can create powerful network effects. I think this formula can provide a lens through which we can look at the success of companies like flickr, amazon.com, IKEA, 37signals etc.

Obviously these diagrams are vast simplifications of the complexity of the relationship between customers and organizations, but I think it’s a useful way to think about the tools and infrastructure you need to put in place to build an deeper and more meaningful relationships with customers. This is very much inspired by the thinking from the cluetrain manifesto, Tara Hunts Pinko marketing, and of course my ideas on.

Attract & Motivate

This is an idea that kept me awake last night. I’ve been struggling for a while to try and bring together a couple of seemingly disparate concepts. Namely search engine marketing, micromarketing, and customer experience. Why would I try and do such a thing? (that’s what my dad asked as well). Well I write about customer experience at experiencecurve, and micromarketing, and my business is currently positioned around search engine marketing, so needless to say i feel somewhat torn when writing about topics, and feel like I should be offering my clients a wider set of my skills and experience.

Anyway, my starting point for this unified theory is “Attract & Motivate”. Companies have been trying to attract customers for years, and micromarketing is another way of building that attraction over time, by leveraging conversational marketing, customer made aspects of the marketing and business, citizen media. In many ways, many people “get” the attraction side of the equation, the part that’s glossed over is the “motivation”, ie. motivating customers to interact with your company in deeper more meaningful ways by participating in the conversation, by creating citizen media, by helping make things.

I built a framework that tried to connect customer experience and motivation a few years ago, that proposes that customers have certain needs that have to be addressed before they can become a valuable participant/co-creator, and the one thing that companies need to watch out for is avoiding “demotivators” even before they think about motivation. The “demotivators” I’ve identified are “trust” and “usability”, in other words, these are not so much motivators, but enablers, lubricants of cooperation if you like. “Motivators” are actually more enablers, ie. autonomy is just about putting frameworks in place that enable customers to be creative.

I know a lot of my focus is online and blogs etc. so I’ll give you a real world example. Take IKEA, which has gained tremendous value from its customers by giving them more autonomy. When customers enter an IKEA store, they are given catalogues, tape measures, pencils, and paper, and then they are given the freedom to make their own deliveries and put their own furniture together, changing the cost structure of the value chain. It is in this way that customers become creators of value; and autonomy is the foundation of motivation.

‘New’ Marketing Podcasts Worth Listening To

Managing the Grey hosted by C.C. Chapman who is the Digital Marketing Manager at Babson College and has been doing music podcasts for a while. Managing The Grey is about “new media, social marketing, no control PR”. Hmm. those are some more terms to add to the ever growing list of adjectives used to describe ‘new’ marketing.

and

Accross The Sound Hosted by Joseph Jaffe, of Beyond the 30 Second spot fame. Joe brings a wonderful perspective to this conversation because he has worked on the agency side of things and on the ‘new’ marketing side of things. Across The Sound is usually about an hour, but he does a good job of filling it with interesting content and gives a nice show summery on the Across The Sound blog (i think they call them show notes).

and

MarketingMonger.com – Marketing Strategy, Social Media, 1,000 Podcasts Hosted by Eric Mattson who is currently in the middle of conducting 1,000 podcasted interviews of marketers, innovators, entrepreneurs and other interesting people

Anyway, for me it’s kind of weird to just be discovering these guys as i’ve been an avid participant in the blogosphere for a few years, and finding these podcasts is like finding a parallel universe. Maybe bloggers and podcasters run in different circles.