From mythmaker to gardener: understanding the world of participatory brands

Anita Black, Mitra Martin and Keith Navratil
Hall & Partners, United States


Today, the old paradigm of the brand as a mythmaker is losing relevance as well as power to generate and sustain customer commitment. In its stead, brand marketers are turning to a host of schemes designed to get people to participate with their brands.

We noticed that brands seemed to be increasingly inviting consumers to co-create ads, help them to innovate or name new products, or vote online or via text messaging to help them with the kind of business decisions that would have been made without much, if any, consumer input years ago. We found many of these examples of participatory communications to be quite novel and fascinating and so we sought to deeply understand the phenomenon of participation and what it means for brands and communications. How widespread and significant a phenomenon is it? What's behind it? How essential is it to the success of a brand today?