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Summing Up on Consumer Generated Marketing: Does Chatter Matter?

 
5/30/2005

Consumer generated marketing is a fact of life to which all of us will have to adapt. Adaptation means learning how to use CGM to provide one form of input in fashioning product and marketing decisions. Those are the messages from respondents to this month's column, who seemed to treat what some might think is the most revolutionary concept in marketing to come along in a long time in a very matter-of-fact way.

Bob Nemens commented, "Traditional marketers may be quick to dismiss Internet chatter as coming from the 'uninformed.' ... If Thomas Edison had been given the option at the time, I bet he would have spent significant time on the online underground." Fernando Polo dismissed the potential pitfalls of bias caused by listening only to outspoken users of the Internet by saying, "Excuses such as 'listening to the wrong complaints' are just that: excuses. Text-mining technologies can now help companies listen to their customers better than ever... My advice: 'Don't let your competitors listen to your clients; do it yourself first.'" Andrea Learned pointed out, "Eventually, those slightly later adopters and less-active types will join in to make blogs a more representative discussion vehicle... The same will likely happen in the consumer generated marketing realm when slightly later-to-adopt consumers realize how much they can influence manufacturers...."

The proper role of CGM was a source of some comment. In particular, the findings of a study cited in the column that associated companies utilizing mechanisms for paying attention to "emerging customers" with the fostering of "disruptive technologies" raised some eyebrows. As Christophe Meili put it, "I'm surprised that consumer generated marketing would foster disruptive innovation. I was under the impression that ... true disruption would be generated less by popular demand than by hard radical thinking." Flavius Chircu suggested that if we regard consumer generated marketing as "something akin to the other party in a dialogue ... (it) becomes a source of incremental improvements whereas anything revolutionary could only come during the 'breaks' in the dialogue." And Caleb DeGrenier commented that "companies still need to surprise the market with innovative products that no single customer would have thought of."

This brings us full cycle to some of our original questions about consumer generated marketing. Is it really something "new under the sun"? Is it, for marketers, a disruptive technology in its own right, something offering decision makers more for less (or, more accurately reflecting the definition of a disruptive technology, less for a lot less)? Or is it something to be regarded as providing just one of several important inputs to future product development and marketing decisions involving primarily non-disruptive technologies? Does chatter matter? And how much? What do you think?