Home > Planning > Nike and Coke Teach The World, That Participation Rocks

Nike and Coke Teach The World, That Participation Rocks

In the fall of 2011 I conducted a workshop based on the New Era of Participation at the 4A’s strategy festival in NYC – and I admittedly ruffled a few feathers when I talked about the end of planning as we know it. I depicted a new era of participation that went beyond the siloed functions of account planning, media planning, digital strategy and even connections planning – to characterize a new way of “uber strategizing.” And I introduced a dynamically inspired and highly collaborative way of thinking, that’s born out of participation as the end of the means of a purposeful idea that fosters deeper levels of human involvement.

Since then, and during the past six months in particular, I’ve been experimenting and thinking about participation as a new form of brand currency that goes beyond the passive behavior of “recommending to a friend,” “liking” or “following” a brand. Increasingly, I am beginning to wonder if participation isn’t quite simply a new measure of tactile brand intimacy and behavioral affinity that exists when “people and brands interact together.” In that way, participation is both shaped and underscored by a measured behavior – or put another way, it’s a combination of behaviors that are defined by proactive brand verbs such as “join, play, buy or share” that only exist when people fully buy into a brand purpose. As an example and to make my point, think of the award winning work for Nike Fuel Band – that unleashed the inner athlete in all of us – and inspires us to “just do it” through the power of technology, to create a whole other level of brand participation that goes well beyond a Nike running shoe.

Now, you may or may not use the words “participation” to interpret or even describe what I am talking about. Although irrespective of whatever you call it, I suspect that you may agree that more brands and more agencies, have woken up to the realization they can no longer just message their way to marketing success. Today, the bar for attaining consumer engagement is much higher – and our brightest minds at agencies are now tasked with finding more skillful ways of tapping into human behavior – that are more about creating ideas that entice participation, and not just advertising ideas. The birth of the digital age, rapid advances in technology, and the voracious human desire for content has given all brands and all marketers the equal opportunity to do that – with or without a big budgets.

Case in point: is a most recent and perhaps my current favorite example of participation for Coca-Cola that I view as a brilliant reinvention of an iconic advertising idea. The initiative is called Project Re: Brief – and its core premise is the reinvention of the famous Coca-Cola Hilltop commercial from the 1970’s and the potential to turn it into a powerful particpatory idea for the 21st century. The initiative born out the ingenuity of google, the genius of Harvey Gabor and a twist of innovation in syncing a vending machine with the web, takes the idea of “buy the world a Coke” and puts it on partcipatory steroids. Put simply, the outcome is that people are able to share a Coke with someone through vending mahines, anywhere in the world, in real time, through the use of smart technology, banner ads and social media networking to literally fulfill Coke’s purpose of “refreshing the world with happiness”. Check out the attached link to the Reimagining Coke Hilltop to see what I mean. In my opinion, it’s very cool.

With all this considererd, maybe it’s time to wonder as strategists, that you should stop planning – and become an uber-strategic catalyst in fostering participation? And if you’re already doing that, then you know what I mean – when I say that participaton rocks. So what are you waiting for, go forth, and participate.

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