In the digital era, it seems like everyone is a content creator. TikTok stars and Instagram influencers are enjoying a lucrative business model, and the barriers to entry for content creation have never been lower. But what does this mean for brands, and more particularly to their identity as content creators themselves? How can they cut through the noise, avoid absurdity and stand out in a crowded marketplace without losing relevance?
Marie Taillard, L’Oréal Professor of Creativity Marketing at ESCP Business School and author of “Digital Makeover: How L’Oreal Put People First to Build a Beauty Tech Powerhouse”, explains why brands need to engage with creators more than ever. For brands to continue to offer something of value on their own in the creator economy, they need to get comfortable working together with creators for greater, more authentic impact.
Brands in the 21st century need to be willing to lose control if they want to facilitate or enhance creativity on the part of customers.Prof. Marie Taillard
In today’s creator economy, brands are the facilitators for co-creation
According to Taillard, “we’re clearly in the era of genuine conversation between brands and customers”. To stand out in the competitive economy of attention, she argues that brands must leverage their presence on social media and other platforms, to collect data and insight from their customers, turning them into sources of inspiration and creativity.
Technological advancements also present new playing fields for content creators and for building relationships with customers. For example, Taillard points out that the metaverse provides a whole new range of opportunities for brands to leverage consumer creativity and passion.
Across marketing and communication channels, brands have a unique role in harnessing the potential of creation. “It can be anything from having platforms on which customers, consumers, fans or anyone can contribute content and engage in a creative manner, all the way to brands being creators themselves and engaging in a co-creation process.”
Probably the most well-known example of co-creation is the Lego Ideas platform. “The famous play company has been working for many years with their large yet fragmented global community, whose common denominator is their passion for the brand”, explains Taillard. Lego engages with its fan base by providing open calls for them to post their own design ideas for new models. The designs that receive over 10,000 votes are considered for production, blurring the line between the in-house designers and the fans. In every way, Lego has democratized the innovation and design processes at the core of its business.
It’s a continuum of opportunities for brands to give access to creation and create a conversation with the users.
But giving such open access to your brand carries a number of risks, all the way from losing control and having your brand hijacked by passionate consumers with a different brand vision, to seeing your collaborative efforts fall flat and fail to inspire. A simple framework provides a recipe that can help brands navigate the process of co-creation. The framework was proposed by famous University of Chicago Strategy professor, C.K. Prahalad and his colleague V. Ramaswamy in a 2004 book, The Future of Competition.
Follow DART, the framework designed to help brands co-create with customers
Co-creation is the act of engaging stakeholders, such as customers or employees, in a design or problem-solving process to generate a mutually beneficial result. The DART (Dialogue, Access, Risk Assessment, Transparency) model is one of the most appreciated frameworks to help companies co-create with the support of their customers. Applied to branding, it unfolds this way:
- Dialogue: enter into a dialogue with your customers, and let them dialogue between themselves.
- Access: create points of access to the brand’s lifestyle and product development, let people in.
- Risk: be willing to give and lose some of the control to enhance creativity. This part can be very tricky for some brands who don’t want to give too much governance away.
- Transparency: open the doors of information and share it with your base.
The tricky point in this recipe lies in the willingness to share the risks. Standing out from the crowd, naturally, requires some risk-taking, but not all brands are eager to experience the vulnerability that comes with being exposed to their audiences. “Brands in the 21st century need to be willing to lose control if they want to facilitate or enhance creativity on the part of customers,” explains Taillard.
The famous champagne brand Maison Ruinart is also a great example of how giving up some control can lead to greater impact. In 1896, André Ruinart commissioned Czech artist Alphonse Mucha to create an art nouveau poster that would embody the Maison. This daring move connected Ruinart to the art world forever. Today, the annual collaboration with contemporary artists is part of their brand strategy. “What Ruinart are doing with their collabs is giving artists the opportunity to translate the brand in a genuine and unencumbered way”, explains Taillard. Although it may resemble it at first glance, this kind of strategy is different from the brand ambassador strategy: “There’s a fine line between being an ambassador and being a full-fledged collaborative participant in the conversation.”
According to Taillard, when brands work with an ambassador or an influencer there is no real risk taken. The relationship is purely transactional. However, when brands collaborate with fans this can lead to true creation by allowing for “spontaneous expression” and “playfulness”. “This is where marketing becomes creative and participative,” she asserts.
The more brands try to keep their ownership, the more they try to avoid risk and loss of control, the less they can be creative with their customers.
Above all, brands need to listen to the people who know their products the best, the customers
When it comes to ensuring impactful and authentic brand partnerships, Taillard points out the necessity of heeding, which is the capacity to listen and take into account the other person’s idea. Applied to branding, this heeding strategy is about being able to integrate the way customers want to contribute to the brand they like. It’s about user-generated content, but it’s also about curating common ground between the audience and the brand.
“It’s the opposite of integrating influencers into your marketing strategy, where you tell them what to do and say. Instead, co-creation is an act of listening. It’s also a way for brands to tell their users: ‘You’re as excited about the brand as we are, and at the end of the day, without you, we’re nothing’.”
Co-creation is about creating a joint experience between brands and users. As Taillard puts it: “Branding is about relevance. It’s about finding that fit between what the customers want to experience and what brands can offer. In this conversation, both parties are invited to express themselves. Now more than ever, new brand strategies should be less about preserving the brand identity at all cost, but engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the target audience.
By co-creating and engaging in “creativity marketing,” brands build loyalty and an experience that resonates with all, even in the competitive creator economy.
License and Republishing
The Choice - Republishing rules
We publish under a Creative Commons license with the following characteristics Attribution/Sharealike.
- You may not make any changes to the articles published on our site, except for dates, locations (according to the news, if necessary), and your editorial policy. The content must be reproduced and represented by the licensee as published by The Choice, without any cuts, additions, insertions, reductions, alterations or any other modifications.If changes are planned in the text, they must be made in agreement with the author before publication.
- Please make sure to cite the authors of the articles, ideally at the beginning of your republication.
- It is mandatory to cite The Choice and include a link to its homepage or the URL of thearticle. Insertion of The Choice’s logo is highly recommended.
- The sale of our articles in a separate way, in their entirety or in extracts, is not allowed , but you can publish them on pages including advertisements.
- Please request permission before republishing any of the images or pictures contained in our articles. Some of them are not available for republishing without authorization and payment. Please check the terms available in the image caption. However, it is possible to remove images or pictures used by The Choice or replace them with your own.
- Systematic and/or complete republication of the articles and content available on The Choice is prohibited.
- Republishing The Choice articles on a site whose access is entirely available by payment or by subscription is prohibited.
- For websites where access to digital content is restricted by a paywall, republication of The Choice articles, in their entirety, must be on the open access portion of those sites.
- The Choice reserves the right to enter into separate written agreements for the republication of its articles, under the non-exclusive Creative Commons licenses and with the permission of the authors. Please contact The Choice if you are interested at email@example.com.
Extracts: It is recommended that after republishing the first few lines or a paragraph of an article, you indicate "The entire article is available on ESCP’s media, The Choice" with a link to the article.
Citations: Citations of articles written by authors from The Choice should include a link to the URL of the authors’ article.
Translations: Translations may be considered modifications under The Choice's Creative Commons license, therefore these are not permitted without the approval of the article's author.
Modifications: Modifications are not permitted under the Creative Commons license of The Choice. However, authors may be contacted for authorization, prior to any publication, where a modification is planned. Without express consent, The Choice is not bound by any changes made to its content when republished.
Authorized connections / copyright assignment forms: Their use is not necessary as long as the republishing rules of this article are respected.
Print: The Choice articles can be republished according to the rules mentioned above, without the need to include the view counter and links in a printed version.
If you choose this option, please send an image of the republished article to The Choice team so that the author can review it.
Podcasts and videos: Videos and podcasts whose copyrights belong to The Choice are also under a Creative Commons license. Therefore, the same republishing rules apply to them.