Creating Intimacy Through Community to Innovate Brands

I read and engaged in an interesting dialog about online communities and “intimacy” with consumers that can lead to innovation. check it out here:

http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&gid=2437767&discussionID=16080886&goback=.anh_2437767

It made me start thinking about how hard we try as researchers, especially with qualitative research, to create intimacy with consumers in order to gain deeper insights. I know it’s a point of pride for companies where i have lead research initiatives that we would conduct interviews and observation in environments that resemble consumers’ “natural habitats” or their homes (for a more ethnographic approach). The goal of this is speed to intimacy to get consumers to open up. And perhaps in a few short hours you can get a little out of a perfect stranger, and by speaking to enough strangers you can even find some deep insights that might lead to a breakthrough innovation.

However, those types of project based engagements, while extremely beneficial to brand teams that need to connect with their consumers and understand their motivations, attitudes and values and how they interact with their brands and related categories, are limited in how much long term-impact you can achieve. Dropping in to your consumer’s world every now and again as a part of projects that are more short-term minded is a great way to connect and impact brand strategy. But if you want to be truly mindful of long term and believe that consumers CAN help your brand innovate , then the way to do that is by establishing a more committed, long term connection.

I beleive that innovation comes from intimate understanding of a whitespace. Intimacy can only be achieved by fostering trust and communication. Trust and communication happen over time. That is why having a space where brands and consumers can “live” together with the intention of seeking understanding from one another can be of tremendous value to the innovation process and to long term brand strategy overall.

The online space is an ideal home for these types of engagements. And certainly, consumers have taken to the ideas of online community. However, I think there is room for improvement in the way brands approach achieving intimacy with consumers in these spaces. In particular, I think consumers need the opportunity to opt in to situations where they can have fun and honest dialogs…where transparency is the rule and different brands “play nice” together in the spirit of inclusiveness and broad-based perspectives
It’s why I get so excited when I see discussions like the ones going on in the BrandScan 360 group on linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=2437767&trk=anet_ug_hm&goback=.anh_2437767

Check it out. The Brand Sherpa promises you wont be disappointed. 😉

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