ThoughtPiece: Doritos with your BlackBerry?

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Two weeks ago I wrote about customer evangelists and their emerging importance in shaping the market. Technology gives amplification to the concept of “word of mouth” advertising and wise companies will find ways to maximize their gains from this phenomenon. I believe that this reality impacts technology companies more so than most, as consumers of cutting edge technology tend to pay more attention to the voices using that technology.

I now wish to tie in a few fresh observations.

First, let’s consider the recently played Super Bowl and what has become almost as important as the game to many viewers: the advertisements. This year Doritos actually ran two ads created by amateurs submitted in a contest. You have to admire the economics of that move: according to the Wall Street Journal, the average national 30-second spot, in 2005, cost $381,000 to produce, and Super Bowl ads cost much more to create (buying the ad time is counted as a separate cost).

With the Doritos ad, they only paid $10,000 to each winner, and ended up with ads as creative as most of those produced by professional ad agencies. Plus, there was the bonus of all of the free publicity generated by press coverage of the contest. Doritos comes out looking like an innovator and even a hero of sorts, giving the “average person” a chance at Super Bowl glory.

Now consider the latest BlackBerry Cool contest which asks you, the thoughtful readers, for suggestions on how to market the upcoming BlackBerry 8800 model. This contest has generated far more responses than any other BBCool contest (with time still remaining to submit an entry).

So should RIM run a contest asking the public to submit actual BlackBerry ads? Judging from the comments on the BBCool contest, I’d say they would get some very good entries, as well as generate a whole lot of enthusiasm.

The bottom line: we all know that companies need to listen to their customers. These days, very wise companies not only listen to their customers, but find ways to encourage their self-expression.