Stephen Newton, a regular commentor on this blog, and I have been having an email discussion about the practical applications of open source marketing, that I think is getting quite interesting.
So I thought I'd publish the highlights and see if anyone wants to join in...
For any non-UK readers, Burberry is an up market fashion range, chavs are like white trash and FCUK is a fashion company (French Connection.) Here's the background.
The discussion so far...
Me: The idea of an open source approach is to recognise that customers are now in control and bring them into the branding process itself. The idea behind this is that considerable energy and loyalty can be created by allowing consumers to help determine brand direction. This would need to be done within some predefined digital structure and based around an overall campaign idea that the customers are going to find engaging. Very hard to know what this might be without knowing more but as an example I offer this quote by Hans Peter Brondmo discussing how the advertising business could use Creative Commons
Stephen: I agree that the open source approach has a lot to offer, in the right circumstances.
I think these are all fair points. However, the experience of other open source experiments would suggest this will not happen. When Linux was being produced, programmers didn't come and try and take over the source code and use it for mean purposes. And the open source encyclopaedia, wikipedia, doesn't get trashed by louts. Which I agree is quite surprising.
However, it seems that what happens online reflects what happens offline. Open source style ways of working tend to create built in guards against the crazy gang. In the same way that no one can get away (for very long) behaving insanely in a public place, it is difficult for anyone to go into an online space and wreak havoc for very long. That's because the other people in the space will make it very difficult for them (on wikipedia if anyone trashes the pages other people fix them) or the website owner can just moderate them out (like the police). So if the BNP took over the FCUK brand as you mentioned they would either get buried online or dragged out.
So, yes there maybe a small percentage of people who try and trash everything but these will be massively outnumbered by the people who want to get involved for fun or tomake a difference on a chosen issue.
Also, I think it's worth bearing in mind that there is nothing stopping people doing all this to brands anyway. The BNP could quite easily go and print FCUK Jews T-shirts. The Chavs have come about
because they have taken the source code and mucked around with it by getting counterfeits made. It could be argued that Burberry's problem with the Chavs is that they weren't involved enough.....