In this article, we consider the trend toward collaboration.
Today, various technological developments allow individuals and groups to constantly connect and interact with the Internet. With the advent of inexpensive computers, tablets, and smartphones, low-cost Internet connections, and open source, communication over the Internet have developed dramatically. Against this backdrop, the concept of “collaboration,” in which products are developed based on customers’ opinions, has been attracting attention.
Social media can fall into two categories
In the age of connectivity, social media is giving customers a great deal of power. There are two main categories of social media. One is expressive media, where customers express themselves on social networking sites such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. The other is collaborative media, such as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the restaurant rating site Tabelog and the recipe site Cookpad. These are media that collaboratively generate collective intellectual content.
Expressive Social Media
In recent years, due to the use of social media and the technological development of search engines, the influence of customer feedback has become impossible to ignore. Customers can share their thoughts and opinions with other customers through blogs and Twitter. While much of the content is private, influential bloggers who comment on news stories or write reviews about their experiences with a company’s products are increasingly becoming influencers and earning money from the company.
Twitter, once considered a mini-blog, has now become the standard for information dissemination. It is an interesting fact that the top-ranking followers in Japan are not companies but individuals.
In terms of Twitter, Comedian Hiroyuki Ariyoshi is number one with 7.25 million followers, Hitoshi Matsumoto of comedian group “Downtown” has 7.14 million, ZOZO founder Yusaku Maezawa has 6.79 million, and artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has 5.21 million followers, indicating that individuals have more influence than corporations. As for corporate accounts, Lawson’s 4.82 million followers and Starbucks’ 4.79 million followers are the top two. (Figures as of March 31, 2020)
YouTube also has a large number of accounts, ranging from personal to corporate accounts. Individual YouTubers such as HIKAKIN and Hajime Shacho, who make videos and broadcast them to the world, have become so influential that they are now ranked among the most popular professions.
As social media becomes more and more about self-expression, customers are increasingly able to influence others with their opinions and experiences. Product reviews written by bloggers and product introductions filmed by YouTubers often provide content that mass media cannot imitate, such as impressions including bad points that cannot be conveyed in corporate commercials and longer and more detailed explanations than commercials and are becoming more present as advertising.
Collaborative Social Media
On the other hand, Wikipedia, Tabelog, and Cookpad are media supported by the voluntary activities of their customers. They are made up of a vast number of customers who voluntarily create a myriad of topics, such as editing online encyclopedia content, posting restaurant reviews, and submitting recipes.
Consumer Generated Media (CGM), which anyone can edit and contribute to, can have enormous amounts of information as customers continue to edit it. Such media often have an overwhelming number of website pages, and today, when customers are always connected to the Internet, they also serve as the recipients of customers’ search behavior and are increasingly attracting large natural search inflows.
In terms of operation, measures are also being implemented to promote usage through gamification, such as lowering the hurdle for users to write for the first time, and how to enable users to write continuously.
What is Collaborative Marketing?
Collaborative marketing is when a company encourages its customers to work together as partners. Customers can already express their own opinions and influence a company’s branding through the development of technology and social media. Marketers no longer have complete control over their brands but are competing with the collective knowledge of their customers about their products and services. This situation, where customers are taking away some jobs of the marketers, is likely to continue, so the ideal relationship is to build good relationships with customers and work with them.
Collaboration begins by listening to the customers to learn how they think and to gain market insights. As collaboration becomes more sophisticated, it will play a central role in creating value for products and services.
This type of collaboration is called “connect and development” and is becoming a new method of R&D (Research and Development). For example, it is said that 35% of P&G’s sales come from collaboration with customers, and examples of such products include the Crest Spin Brush. Of course, companies in Japan are also focusing on collaboration with customers. More and more companies are focusing on Direct To Customer (D2C) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), with an emphasis on connecting directly with customers and maintaining a dialogue with them. Kao PLAZA, a membership site operated by Kao, conducts campaigns and monitors surveys, and product reviews.
Some collaborations are large and some are small. A simple example of collaboration would be finding areas for improvement in the feedback section of a smartphone application and modifying the application. Listening to customer feedback and using it to improve your own products is also an excellent collaboration. As mentioned in the previous section, sponsoring articles on influential blogs, promoting restaurant reviews in Tabelog, and reviewing food tastings are also examples of collaboration.
In collaborative marketing, customers are partners, not just consumers. To become a partner and be close to the customer, the company/brand will need to have a human side and create an environment where the customer is easy to interact with.
But first of all, why don’t we start with what we can do without getting too defensive?