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Citizen Marketing

August 12th, 2006
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Developing and nurturing a community of users around a product.

This is one of the areas of marketing that I’ve continued to investigate after the end of my MBA program. Perhaps I should have taken Marketing as a specialization after all, things might have worked out better for me…

A passionate user base can potentially allow a company to overcome a variety of strategic and operational missteps. Apple’s user base is known for being particularly rabid and definitely contributed to their resurgence. Car clubs are another example beyond the world of IT. Long after an automaker has ceased making a particular model or even an entire line, loyal fans have kept the brand alive. Recently a number of classic muscle cars such as the GTO, Charger, and Camaro have been brought back by the big three. Harley Davidson is another corporate turnaround that benefited from passionate user evangelists.

Snakes on a Plane is presently trumpeted as proof of the power of citizen marketing. Leisure brands especially those related to hobbies such as the various things people collect often benefit from word of mouth more than classic advertising. My entire Nurgle subdomain can be seen as an example of customer evangelism. The subdomain generally outperforms all other websites in the various search engines even those of the company that makes the product.

Another business that has benefited from and learned to work with its most passionate users is video games. Often the best website and source of information on a video game is not the official company run site but one created by fans. Even after the actual developers have moved on to other projects, community sites continue to evangelise the product, generating sales long after the official marketing campaign has ended. In the video game community, fans actually extend and add on to the actual game through a variety of mods. The first game I can recall that both relied extensively on word of mouth marketing and embraced users expanding and modifying the game was DooM. I myself created numerous additional levels which are still available online if you Google hard enough.

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