Kotler on the new marketing of co-creation

1 Feb 2009

The internet and new media have changed marketing from a monologue to a two-way dialogue between companies and customers. That’s according the Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing.

“The old marketing was a monologue,” he told Marketing Age in a recent interview. “That doesn’t work today. It’s a whole different attitude now, so companies have to drop the mindset that we’re going to spend all our money telling you about our products, rather than spending our money on learning about our customers.

“On your website, do you ask your customers to go to your website to ask for more information about your products, for more suggestions about them? Have you asked, ‘How would you challenge our company to make products that you want?’”

Kotler says companies need to wake up and listen to their lead users. “There are customers we call lead users of our products, especially in B2B [business-to-business], who not only buy your products, but they change them altogether. A lead user is one who says, ‘You still have the best products, but they could do better for us’. It’s like a surgeon who says he’s in danger of dropping the scalpel because it’s all metal, and asks can’t we put rubber around it so he doesn’t keep dropping it on the floor. You need to listen to that.

“In fact, there are some guys who tinker with the MRI scanners that are made by General Electric or Siemens so they do a better job of looking into the body. These lead users really lead us to the next iteration of our products or services, and show us things we weren’t capable of seeing ourselves. This kind of customer engagement is vital.”

It all goes towards the concept of brand communities, says Kotler. “It’s one thing to have a well-known brand. That does not mean you have a brand community. Let me distinguish. I would say that Apple has a brand community – people who, if I tell you I have an Apple and you tell me you have one too, we’ve got a lot to talk about. If you say you use Crest toothpaste, and I say I do, there is nothing to talk about.

“The companies that have brand communities are Apple, Nike, Lego, Harley Davidson, South West Airlines – companies that I say are dear to us. When we meet someone else who is also a customer of that company, there’s a lot to talk about and exchange. That’s when you’ve really arrived, and people want news about you. They even tick that box that says, ‘Would you like to get some announcements that we make?’.”

It all fits in with the concept of co-creation that is going on in truly innovative companies, says Kotler. “It’s like when you say we have a consumer panel and we’re using them in a focus-group way. We tell them, ‘Please get on your computer at 2.30 because we’ve a new product and we’d like to get your opinion’.

It’s all about getting focus groups and panels together who ‘love’ you and want to offer their opinion, says Kotler, from feedback on products to feedback on advertising campaigns. “The companies that are doing that, I’d buy stock in those companies!,” he says.

Read the full interview on businessandleadership.com.

Photo credit: Felipe Trueba Garcia UPPA/Photoshot