LONDON/WASHINGTON: Brands must embrace the opportunities offered by "collaborative marketing" in order to thrive in the digital age, according to authors featured in the latest issue of Admap.

Introducing Admap's special feature on this subject, Mark Earls, of Herd Consulting, argued that the move towards this interactive form of communications should be considered a "gamechanger".

He divided this emerging discipline into four categories – collaborative communications, co-creation, working with other brands or agencies and crowdsourcing. All of them present challenges as well as opportunities.

Elsewhere, John Winsor, of Victors and Spoils, wrote that the rapid uptake of services like Facebook and Twitter, as well as devices such as the iPhone, have connected every company to the outside world.

This trend has also contributed to the development of the "curator class", a group of influential netizens who "have the same power as brands" and can mobilise online communities for or against specific firms.

Pepsi, Cisco, Dell and Best Buy are examples of companies that have endeavoured to connect with this audience, for example, by creating web forums allowing them to share their ideas and suggestions.

In a case study covering the rebranding of the Sci Fi channel to Syfy, Aki Spicer of Fallon Worldwide provided a practical example of how to engage with a "vocal, involved and co-creative user base."

By incorporating the views of these fans, responding directly to their tweets, building Facebook apps and seeking to enter the conversation, Syfy was able to change many critics of the rebrand into advocates.

Tracey Follows, of VCCP, added that service brands, in particular, need to embrace the "era of adaption" if they are to safeguard their "momentum", a goal which can be achieved by reaching out to early adopters.

"These are the people who are really valuable to a service brand, because they can help drive relevant, intuitive innovation at literally no cost, yet to huge gain," she argued.

Zappos' "tireless" approach to providing excellent customer service, Best Buy's "Twelpforce" on Twitter and AT&T's recently-released iPhone app, called Mark the Spot, provide some best examples in this area.

Other articles in the special feature included research by BrainJuicer's John Kearon into the shift from "me" research to "we" research.

Charlie Leadbeater also assessed potential future business models, and similarly suggested that a "with and by" culture will ultimately come to replace the old "to and for" approach.

Further articles appearing in the latest issue of Admap are a McDonald's case study, details about ten emerging consumer trends and advice for generating meaningful consumer insights.

Data sourced from Admap