An Art Director, Copywriter and Community Member Walk Into a Room…

Nope, that’s not the start of a bad joke. Imagine if it were reality. What if the creative brains on your business were actually concepting with your target audience…?! For some companies, it is.

Concepting With Customers: The Wrong Way

When I worked in advertising, I always dreaded the moment when I had to share with creative teams that the client wanted to test creative. Often it came at the most inopportune time—the team had returned from multi-million dollar global photo/videoshoots, the ad was almost completely laid out and the final tweaks were in progress. Without fail, it was always a surprise client announcement and a last minute fire-drill.

The conversation with the creative team usually ensued in a) a lecture, b) the silent treatment, or c) a temper tantrum. Can I blame them? Nope. Not at all. (Little did they know I had a similar reaction to the news moments earlier.)

At the point when an ad with a deliberate and planned purpose had been created—it was “their baby.” Even with the most challenging of objectives, the creative team had accomplished being able to make all the pieces and parts of necessary information work holistically.

The client would share the news—we’d be testing ads with three focus groups in major cities (mostly to folks that were betting on a free lunch and a quick buck because they most likely didn’t have a full-time job to keep them busy during the day). To top it off, it would be in some sort of fake-created environment where they would view our 4 new spots all in a row—very realistic! The result: focus group feedback would be taken quite literally and the situation would predictability end in changes to the ad that removed the priority of information (make everything bigger and bolder!!) and the balance of image and copy and would turn into an amalgemash of information and logos. Sometimes, the entire concept would be lost forever.

Concepting With Customers: The Right Way

At Communispace I’ve seen some stellar clients use communities in the “right way” when going through ad strategy, concepting and creation and I’m hoping this blog post inspires more of our clients to use their communities for all they are worth:

  1. Bind your community to company strategy
    Tying the work of your community to key strategic initiatives allows you to leverage what your most important customers are feeling, thinking, and needing far beyong the tactical, day-to-day operations of your organization. Using your MROC as a strategic asset can not only provide indispensible guidance to your C-level executives and most critical business decisions, but it also provides your community members with enough context to offer rich and nuanced input.
  2. Give your creative team access to inspiration! And no, I’m not talking about crowd-sourcing random ideas/ad concepts on the internet. I’m talking about the fact that there are SO many creative directors out there that would love nothing more than to be able to throw a quick question out there to a community to help fuel their ideas. “How do you feel when you use this product?” “What is the one thing you always know this product can deliver?” “Are there any memories or moments of using this product that have really stuck in your mind?” ‘How would you feel if you couldn’t have this product anymore?”
  3. Close the loop
    Show community members that you are listening—and not only will they feel empowered and motivated to participate more often, they’ll understand how to better help you in the future. It’s fantastic how excited and engaged members can be—and how much more they’ll care about your brand—when you thank them for their input and tell them about the changes they’ve inspired.

…so if you are concepting without community members, the joke just may be on you.

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