CMA: Engaging consumers in a digital world

The 2011 CMA National Convention opens its stage to professor of technology Mohan Sawhney and his talk on the concept of collaborative marketing.

The first morning of the 2011 CMA National Convention in Toronto came close to answering this year’s theme question “What’s the Bleepin’ Point?” with a stimulating presentation by Mohan Sawhney, McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology for the Kellogg School of Management.

Using examples of brands, from McDonald’s to Nike, Sawhney explained how harnessing creative ideas from consumers and involving them in the marketing process, can solve the complex issue of connecting with customers in a digital world.

“Consumers no longer want to simply consume, they want to prosume,” says Sawhney. “They want to be a part of the conversation, the dialogue and your marketing. It’s no longer enough to be customer oriented; you have to be integrated with your customer.”

To begin, Sawhney described ways for brands to embrace implications that come from using the digital world. He says to create a forum on the web for consumers to interact and communicate with the brand about issues – a route McDonald’s took to overcome negative reports of food quality. The burger company created Make Up Your Own Mind, an online site for the brand to answer consumer questions, openly and honestly.

Beginning with collaborative ideation and using Starbucks’ consumer idea creation site, My Starbucks Idea, Sawhney explained how the coffee company was able to solicit ideas from consumers on how to improve the brand. Bear in mind, he warns marketers, the brand should ensure the consumers are being listened to.

“You have to be really careful and make sure that the customer input actually gets used. You can frustrate customers and create a lot of angst,” he explains. “Don’t take input if you don’t know what to do with it.”

The professor concluded his talk with a focus on creating a social media service team. He proposed that brands continue to transform their marketing with a set goal in mind, avoid diving right into using digital tools and, of course, embrace consumer input.

The 2011 CMA National Convention is produced by the Canadian Marketing Association and concludes today in Toronto.