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Consumer Generated Media

It’s so timely that Heath mentions BK’s subservient chicken campaign, because it was one of the examples used today by Vipul Gupta during his talk on Consumer Generated Media (CGM) at the International Conference on Cognitive Systems in New Delhi, India. Vipul Gupta, Ph.D.

It’s so timely that Heath mentions BK’s subservient chicken campaign, because it was one of the examples used today by Vipul Gupta during his talk on Consumer Generated Media (CGM) at the International Conference on Cognitive Systems in New Delhi, India. Vipul Gupta, Ph.D. — Associate Professor in the Department of Decision and System Sciences at Saint Joseph University’s Haub School of Business — spoke about the evolving forms of Consumer Generated Media, and used specific examples ranging from the Ballysucks.net site to Cyber Alert’s Blog Squirrel to illustrate the breadth of reaction and adaptability by companies to various CGM. What follows is a summary of the ideas presented by Dr. Gupta.

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CGM Landscape

Consumers are gathering online at places like CNET, Epinions.com, and TripAdvisor, and many individual are creating their own blogs about products and companies that other users visit to find product information. iPodcasting — individuals creating downloadable audio content geared toward an iPod — is just the latest venue for CGM.

Many studies have shown that consumers trust other consumers more than the manufacturer when it comes to product information. One example is the Honda Hybrid line of cars. Though Honda has claimed that their hybrid cars can get fifty to sixty miles per gallon, consumers, finding otherwise, have gathered in online spaces to discuss their actual mileage calculations. Prospective consumers of Honda Hybrid cars are increasingly turning to these channels for information, and in many cases using these sites as a way to connect with current owners for feedback before purchase. This is an important development for retailers as they must now reconsider their traditional methods of disseminating and positioning product information.

How are companies reacting to CGM?

Some sue. A number of years ago Bally Total Fitness allegedly received complaints from customers about negative and unjust credit reporting from the company, and upset consumers eventually met each other online at the site Bally Total Fitness Sucks. When the proprietor of the site refused the request of Bally to take the site down, Bally Total Fitness sued him, and eventually lost. Years later, the site is still online.

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Perhaps smarter is for a company to enlist one of a variety of services designed to monitor the breadth of customer satisfaction and complaints communicated in CGM everyday. CyberAlert’s Blog Squirrel and Intelliseek’s BlogPulse are both automated trend discovery service of Customer Generated Media. They use search engines to keep tabs on CGM and deliver reports to marketers and retailers based on the consumer conversations taking place online.

But most daring are advertising campaigns specifically geared at appealing to CGM, such as Burger King’s subservient chicken campaign, which generated 40 million hits in a fraction of the amount of time that it took their traditional media to spread to the same numbers.

Whether these type of campaigns sell more chicken sandwiches is difficult to measure at this early stage, but, when successful, they spread positive awareness about a brand or product, and that kind of awareness is an asset, not a liability.

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