Andrew Walmsley on digital: The year of consumer empowerment

As we career headlong into 2007, pausing only to put on a little weight over Christmas, it is often difficult to find the time to step back from the day-to-day pressures of work to look beyond this week's sales figures and next week's reports to the themes likely to dominate the coming year.

Fret no more: here are my top-three digital trends for the marketing world in 2007 - the areas in which I expect to see significant growth - for you to cut out, keep, or perhaps use as emergency wrapping paper.

Apple might have sued its evangelists, but most marketers view the trend toward consumer-generated advertising as a big opportunity. From ads that allow users to personalise the content before sending it on, such as the emailable trailer on, to encouraging users to create ads from scratch - see, where firms place advertising briefs for consumers to fulfil - it is becoming clear that this is the beginning of a new world for advertisers. Some will see its significance simply as the chance to save on production budgets, but there is a bigger game being played.

Becoming part of the conversation between consumers is infinitely more powerful than handing down information via traditional advertising. It encourages and facilitates consumers to become a part of the process, rather than being dumb recipients of the message from on high - and that is of huge potential value to brands. Check out for dozens of short films made by brand fans to see what I mean.

A similar trend is for the web to build a role as a customer insight mechanism for new product development, encouraging consumers to help create better products. Although it started with the open source movement, which saw thousands of individuals co-operating over the web to produce software, it is a trend that conventional manufactured goods companies are signing up to. lets customers design their own T-shirts and vote for others, Jones Soda (jones encourages consumers to design custom labels for its bottles, and is Procter & Gamble's ongoing mums' feedback site, with focus groups, surveys and discussions providing a stream of consumer input on NPD.

From using message boards to glean feedback on products, to websites that allow consumers to design and buy their own bespoke versions of products, such as Lego Factory, companies are inviting customers in, and gaining a competitive edge by doing so.

Another key development will be the increasing power conferred on the consumer by the internet, which is leading to a future where there is nowhere to hide for bad products. Consumers now have a voice, and they are using it. From the much-written-about Kryptonite bike lock saga, to Wal-Mart's fake blog 'flogs', marketers are discovering that they cannot pull the wool over consumers' eyes any more, either with poorly performing products or disingenuous promotions. The latest example is ipodsdirty - a video showing what happened when a consumer discovered his iPod battery only lasted 18 months, and was then unreplaceable.

Often when people talk about marketing, they mean 'promotion'. And when they talk about the internet as a marketing medium, they make the same mistake. McCarthy's four P's framework set out what he saw as the four key variables in crafting a marketing strategy back in the 60s - price, promotion, product and place - and we are seeing the internet affect every one of them.

The past 10 years have seen massive growth in the internet delivering on the promotion 'P', and that growth is not going to let up. The interesting development in 2007 will be the accelerating exploitation of the web for the other three.

- Andrew Walmsley is co-founder of i-level


- is an independent US cable and satellite TV channel. Viewer-created content accounts for about one-third of its programming.

- The channel airs short pieces about people, current affairs and trends in short segments it calls pods.

- Anyone can upload a video to the channel's website. The online community then votes for the pieces that should be shown on TV.

- The site includes a step-by-step training section to show new users how to make a video for broadcast, including tips on everything from equipment to editing.

- It also shows viewer-created ads - 'V-CAMs' - for sponsor brands. Those that make it to air earn $1000, and can bring in $5000-$50,000 for the creator if the sponsor wants to air the spot elsewhere.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer