I have proudly finished yet another Digital Marketing Module on Coursera.  Link to Certificate

This course was largely presented by Aric Rindfleish, Department Head of Business Administration and Executive Director of Illinois MakerLab at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.

This course focused on a number of subjects, including; Co-Creation, Doppleganger Brands, Authenticity, New Retail, Pay What You Want, and Price Comparison Tools.

Some favorite highlights from the course touched on Co-Creation, Doppleganger Brand Images, and Authenticity – with some thoughts and examples detailed below.

Co-Creation Gone Wild: Local Motors’ “Rally Fighter”

Local Motors' Rally Fighter: A car designed and built by customers.

Local Motors’ Rally Fighter: A car designed and built by customers.

Local Motors was founded in 2007 at Chandler, AZ by Harvard MBA, John Rogers. The vision of the company is to drive community engagement in order to facilitate innovation through open collaboration in order to drive faster, more cost-effective, more thorough product development to drive improved safety and quality. Local Motors engaged their customers for feedback and design suggestions to inform development of the Rally Fighter.

Analysis

I’m reminded of the proverb, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.”  Compared to the more familiar passenger-car, the Rally Fighter has an odd and unfamiliar bearing that suggest a very different evolutionary history.

Its a camel and I love it.

Unfortunately, the Rally Fighter will not be successful as a mass-market vehicle due to the design, price, and self-assembly requirement. However,  it could find success among enthusiasts, hobbyists, and collectors – if they exist in sufficient numbers to supply Local Motors with demand. If I had the money, time and facilities I would certainly want to buy and build one, for the experience and the pride of owning such a unique and distinctive creation.

This case reminds me of another upstart car maker, Tesla. A key difference is the Fighter is based on a traditional GM power-train, whereas the Tesla is based on electric-drive, considered the future of the industry. (This recent article)  indicates Local Motors is experimenting with electric power-train solutions, though very early-on in the process. Incorporating electric power-train technology into future designs will contribute to the long-term value proposition of the company.

Elon Musk was able to back Tesla using capital from prior successful ventures. Local Motors’ continued success will require ongoing access to funding and increased market share, achieved by a lower price-point or an assembled version. Limited buyer-ship with sufficient aptitude and the money will constrain demand. The complexity and price limit the product to a market similar to that for light-aircraft (e.g., Cessna)

One solve may be for Local Motors to develop strategic associations with a network of shops which could execute the assembly for would-be buyers, removing that as a barrier to purchase.

I love the approach to design and the final product. Finding sufficient demand compatible with the business model is the greatest concern. That said, the Rally Fighter stands as a brilliant example of the type of innovation in product design made possible through co-creation.

Doppelgänger Brand Image (D.B.I.)

As part of the user-generated-content segment, I added a section the Wikipedia entry for Brand to define the issue of Doppelgänger Brand Images, which can be a real problem for companies with large, recognizable brands.

Definition

A doppelgänger brand image or “DBI” is a disparaging image or story about a brand that it circulated in popular culture. DBI targets tend to be widely known and recognizable brands. The purpose of DBIs is to undermine the positive brand meanings the brand owners are trying to instill through their marketing activities.

The term stems from the combination of the German words doppel (double) and gänger (walker).

Doppelgänger brands are typically created by individuals or groups to express criticism of a brand and its perceived values, through a form of parody, and are typically unflattering in nature.

Due to the ability of Doppelgänger brands to rapidly propagate virally through digital media channels, they can represent a real threat to the equity of the target brand. Sometimes the target organization is forced to address the root concern or to re-position the brand in a way that defuses the criticism.

Examples

Joe Chemo campaign organized to criticize the marketing of tobacco products to children and their harmful effects.

adbusters_JoeChemo_bed

Version of the Coca Cola logo crafted to protest their sponsorship of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and associated human rights abuses (link to original Reddit thread featuring the image)

From original Reddit Thread

The FUH2 campaign protesting the Hummer SUV as a symbol of corporate and consumer irresponsibility toward public safety and the environment

The site features a gallery of over 5,000 user submitted images like this one

The site features a gallery of over 5,000 user submitted images like this one

For marketers, the most valuable takeaway is the realization that a doppelgänger brand image can be a benefit to a brand, if taken as an early warning sign that the brand is losing emotional authenticity with its market – and it’s time to take action to address the issue.

Authenticity

What resonated most strongly with me was the importance of authenticity in marketing and brand management. In a digitally interconnected marketplace, firms must be true to the messages they share with their market, or face the consequences. Bad service, disengenuous PR, poor quality, or harmful product will be outed, spreading virally and rapidly – punishing the offender.

Notable, recent social-media fails such as JP Morgan’s ill ‘snarkopolypse’-triggering #AskJPM  or the New York Police Department’s PR disaster #myNYPD are just two horrifying (and all too common) examples of campaigns from very large, well-resourced organizations that are definitely big enough to know better.

Popular tweets from the #askJPM 'Snarkpocalypse'

Popular tweets from the #askJPM ‘Snarkpocalypse’

One of the more popular re-tweets from the unfortunate #myNYPD Twitter debacle.

One of the more popular re-tweets from the unfortunate #myNYPD Twitter debacle.

Four takeaways for marketers includes the following truths: (credit to adherecreative.com)

Be Aware and Beware

Or, at least be aware of what the public perception of your business is. You may not always like what you will see if you dig deep, but the first step to fixing negative public perception is to identify how your audience feels about you.

Never forget that social media is the great equalizer

When you are constructing your social media marketing plan, never forget that you do not control the conversation, and that what you want may not the thing you wind up with. Your audience doesn’t care about “building your brand” or promoting your agenda. They are people who care about the things going on in their own lives. When they come to social media, they want to be entertained or informed.

Social media is not the place to win new fans

A brand jumping in and trying to chat up new folks is really invasive, and social media users resent it when you do it. Instead, develop social media marketing ideas that focus on building value for the customers you already have and for curious stumblers. Worry about the value of your content and its message, and let the audience flock to you.

Authenticity is Everything

Social media can be a powerful tool but it can be a double-edged sword that can hurt your brand a lot. A poor social media marketing plan can be a ticking time bomb. Make sure you understand the medium and understand your audience. You need only #AskJPM what happens if you jump in without accessing the situation first.

Till next time, Cheers!

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