At the annual ANA conference last week, the big companies talked a good talk.

But in the end, there was little evidence that they truly understand what in the blue hell it means to embrace and empower their community as marketing partners.
Here's some of the quotes from a New York Times article on the event:

"The power is with the consumer," A. G. Lafley, chief executive at the Procter & Gamble Company.
"Today, the customer is in charge," Stephen F. Quinn, senior vice president for marketing at Wal-Mart Stores.
"We'd never have complete control over the brand," James L. McDowell, managing director at Mini USA.
"It's about putting the customer in charge, even if they say 'bad things' about the brand," Russ Klein, president for global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King.

Sorry, but none of the above quotes sound like they are coming from a company that understands what in the blue hell it means to embrace and empower their community as marketing partners.
But the article closed with a different view from Cammie Dunaway, the chief marketing officer at Yahoo. Dunaway relates the story of how Yahoo Music asked fans of the singer Shakira to contribute video clips of them performing her song "Hips Don't Lie," and these submissions were culled to produce a fans' version of her music video.
Dunaway adds:
"I call it participation marketing. Allow them to help you shape the brand experience. Content is no longer something you push out. Content is an invitation to engage with your brand."

Bingo. And with the above example, that content is co-created between the artist, and her fans/community advocates.
Dunaway's quote comes from a marketer that has EXPERIENCE reaching out to, and empowering her community. The previous examples sound like canned quotes from CEOs that are reading off an index card given to them by their CMO 5 seconds before they walked on-stage.
Memo to the big companies that think they have a clue about the consumer:
Creating a 'Make our ad for us' promotion is NOT community-empowerment. Want to learn what is? Then get off the stage, roll up your sleeves and join your community.
That way you'll have much better stories to tell at next year's conference.

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What It Means to 'Walk the Walk'

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Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier