Is Consumer Generated Marketing A Credible Research Tool?

05/26/2005

Professor Jim Heskett posed an intriguing question on HBS Working Knowledge - "Where is consumer generated marketing taking us?"  Here's a clip from his post -

Tens of thousands or newsgroups and discussion boards on the Internet have spawned millions of bloggers who speak in both whispers and shouts. [Sidebar: I love that "who speak in both whispers and shouts"]  Combined with the low cost of Web site and even crude advertising design,inhabitants of the Web can achieve wonders in creating and broadcasting a wide range of messages. These range from campaigns for or against public figures to ads highlighting the high cost of replacing iPod batteries (since corrected). The newsgroups, discussion groups and blogs may contain the seeds of ideas and notions about cutting-edge behaviors suggesting everything from future business opportunities to social and political trends.

The good professor then asked some hard questions that we as marketers sometimes overlook in our zeal to use blogs, boards and listservs as cost effective research tools.

-Is it time to ask ourselves if these trends are always in our best interest as marketers and customers?
-Is it possible to be too well connected with one segment of customers?
-Is there a danger among marketers and more generally the media in paying too much attention to the Internet-savvy early adopters and activists and too little to other early adopters that tend to keep their behavior and ideas to themselves?
-Might marketers be too sensitive to Internet prompts, responding too rapidly on the basis of noise as opposed to truly developing trends?

Feedback from these new "always on communication" channels can't be dismissed but we would be smart to keep the good professor's questions top-of-mind when developing new products/services and brand strategy.

The article "Where is consumer generated marketing taking us?" and the comments are well worth a read and a few moments thought. 

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Comments

It seems to me that it is always wise to "consider the source" :-) The absolute value of the Internet-based early adopters sort of depends on WHAT your product is --if it is a tech product, my gut tells me you are fairly safe using their opinions as a yardstick for the market. You should however also check these assumptions against the non-net-active population who might purchase your product.

And if your product is not tech, I agree that you really should supplement your Internet sources with other information sources Otherwise, you have cast a false narrow net.

Posted by: Susan Getgood on May 27, 2005 9:57:05 AM

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