Listening through communities

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Levi’s and Kraft Crystal Light recently launched efforts that show how two major brands use online communities to listen to consumers instead of toss messages at them.

Levi’s: Project 501 Design Challenge

On January 23, viewers of the TV show “Project Runway” learned about the launch of the Levi’s Project 501 Design Challenge, where anyone can submit a fashion design for an online community to judge. The first-place winner will have his or her design produced and sold on levi.com. If you don’t want to be a designer, you can join the judging panel, vote for a winner, and enter to win a $501 levi.com gift certificate.

So why is this noteworthy? After all, promotions relying on user-generated content are not new, and companies like Lego’s have involved consumers in product design. What sets apart the Design Challenge is the convergence of user-generated product design, a contest, a well-known brand, and the tie-in with a popular television show.

My employer Avenue A | Razorfish conceived the idea, built the site and design box, and worked with another agency to produce the TV spot that ran on “Project Runway.” Next step: on February 21, Project 501 Design Judges will narrow the design candidates to the top 20 list.

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A consumer submitted this design for the Levi’s 501 Challenge

Kraft Crystal Light: uPumpItUp

The Kraft Crystal Light beverage brand has launched uPumpItUp, a social networking site that fosters wellness among women. One of the Avenue A | Razorfish team members who helped create the site describes it as “MySpace meets Nike+.” uPumpItUp is partly an information site about wellness. For instance, Jennifer Aniston’s yoga instructor Mandy Ingber gives you yoga tips. But uPumpItUp community members can also challenge each other to to complete wellness-related tasks like “add yoga to your workout routine.” uPumpItUp members (once logged on) keep track of all their challenges and check off milestones completed. You can also comment on the challenges through community message boards.

uPumpItUp, hosted by actress Mandy Moore, launched with online advertising on February 18. The site URL will start showing up on Crystal Light television advertisements.

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Experience yoga on uPumpItUp

In both those instances, the companies are not creating community sites just because it’s a cool thing to do. Rather, the experiences are true to each company’s brand, in this case Crystal Light’s connection to wellness and the reputation for authentic fashion design that we associate with Levi’s.

There’s also something else going on here: the willingess to listen to the consumer. Crystal Light has placed uPumpItUp at the center of its entire 2008 marketing program because the community site gives the company a mechanism to hear what’s on the minds of consumers. Similarly, Levi’s is using the online community as a consumer sounding board for new product design (Levi’s can learn from even also-ran concepts) leading to creation of new product direct from the consumer.

Nice to know that big brands are figuring out ways to listen to us instead of shout at us.

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7 Responses to Listening through communities

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  3. Scott says:

    Many clients are approaching me today interested in social networking communities, and I am generally hesitant about them getting involved. Much of my hesitation revolves around the fact that I am skeptical that customers/users care enough about a client\’s product to register for an online community and actively create content and communicate with other users.

    I like how you\’re taking a larger idea (fashion, health) and making it the focus of the site rather than the product or brand itself. I\’m still a bit skeptical, and would love a follow up post once you have some analytics or information about the ROI on the sites.

    Thanks!

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