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Carrot & Stick

David Puttnam the British film producer (Chariots of Fire etc), once tutored a young director with the wise words ‘Just because modern technology allows you to morph a cat into a horse doesn’t mean that you should do it’. He was, I recall, suggesting the primacy of relevant storytelling, narrative and character development as engagement devices much more powerful than using the latest special effects for the sake of special effects.

The same could be said of the advent of technology, social media, geo-tagging and the ‘always on’ consumer leads us to believe that our target customers want to engage with us in an intensive, heavyweight way every time they wave at us. Just because we have the opportunity to engage interactively doesn’t mean we should take it for granted.

More and more marketeers are talking about recognising and enabling ‘consumer collaborators’. We have a suspicion that many consumers are already pretty tired at having to shoulder evermore burden in their innocent quest for knowledge, information or even a price. We know that many resent having to leap through a number of on-line sign-up hoops to get a train-time or fare from an airline. In many cases the reward does not outweigh the effort required.

Brand and consumer collaboration now seems to be a one-way street – often in favour of the brand.

Rather than getting all strung up with ‘how can we better reward’ consumers with burdensome layers of interaction perhaps we could do them a favour?

Genuinely make interaction easy.

Recognise that they may just want a telephone number and not ‘an experience’.

Work harder at saying less and meaning more.

Make sure that we always work harder than they have to.

Finally, as a my good friend Andrew Cracknell, then the creative director of a Top 10 agency, reminded the industry at large “we must not go about like multimedia lager louts or corporate graffiti artists. Just because there is a bare wall don’t slap a poster there. Just because there is a silence, resist the temptation to fill it with a message” In today’s communicopia we may want to add “…and just because we have the capability to engage interactively respect the fact that the consumer may just want to have a quiet look at you”.

This article was originally posted on the CRICKET blog: 10 July 2012