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Business - Written by on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 10:50 - 1 Comment

How much control should be retained when collaborating with customers?

I was recently intrigued by a news headline saying that Ben Southall had won “The Best Job in the World.” The competition, created by Tourism Queensland, was a search for the lucky person that would become the caretaker of Hamilton Island. As caretaker, Southall will explore all the island has to offer, create a photo journal and blog about his adventures for the salary of $AUD 150 000. Although the job sounds like an extravagant expense for Tourism Queensland, it is actually part of a very successful marketing campaign to attract tourism to the island. The campaign started by inviting applicants to submit 60 second videos explaining why they should be the Island Caretaker. The invitation was sent out via YouTube and other media. From the more than 34 000 video applications submitted, Tourism Queensland shortlisted 50 applicants, and 11 finalists (ten selected by Tourism Queensland and one “wild card” voted in by the public) were chosen to advance to the next round. The final winner was selected by Tourism Queensland.As the public became engaged in the competition, YouTube videos, news articles, and over 200 000 blogs were created about “The Best Job in the World.” Tourism Queensland estimates that the $1.7 million spent on the campaign has already yielded the equivalent of $110 million in global publicity. Furthermore, the following that Southall developed during the competition will likely grow as he blogs about his adventures and displays all that Queensland has to offer. Southall’s adventures can be followed through the competition website. The campaign’s success, which demonstrates the potential for marketing through social media, has been recognized at One Show in New York, where it received the prestigious Best in Show award.

Although this innovative campaign has been very successful, I question Tourism Queensland’s choice to retain almost entire control over the candidate selection. A key strategy in the campaign was to engage the public through their interest in the candidates, and there may have been more engagement if they had allowed the public to choose the 10 finalists, instead of a single wild card, from the 50 shortlisted candidates. By shortlisting candidates and by choosing the final winner of the competition from the ten publicly chosen candidates, Tourism Queensland would still be able to ensure that an appropriate candidate was chosen. In addition, allowing the public to be more involved would result in a winner that has great charisma and would be able to create a large following for his/her blog. Would the campaign have been even more successful if the public had been more involved? The question of how much control should be retained by a company and how much should be left to consumers is becoming increasingly important as more companies begin to include consumers in the development of their products and services.

Another interesting example of an organization incorporating public opinion is NASA’s contest to name the new module for the international space station. The name that received the most votes was Colbert, after the popular comedian, Stephen Colbert. Although NASA did ask for public opinion, they reserved the right to name the module themselves and decided on Tranquility, one of the top ten suggestions from the public. In recognition of the winning name, NASA did name the new space station treadmill the “Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill”, or COLBERT for short. I think that in this case, NASA made the right decision in not allowing a module of the international space station to be named as a result of a joke, but to incorporate the winning name in NASA’a own joke. In other cases, however, it is not as clear, and it will remain a difficult judgment call to decide how much control should be retained by a company working in collaboration with the public or its consumers.

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Adam Clarke
Jul 9, 2009 13:45

Great post.

The 2007 ‘Speights Lager’ campaign may also interest you:


I think this has more to do with Marketing heads having the courage to do something more ‘experiential’ rather than mindlessly go a TVC embodied route.

The point you raise is interesting, as is the question ‘how much control’ – this can be true of all collaborative relationships. Regards advertising/marketing – I would like to see just ONE brand giving it ALL to the consumer. Even by asking the initial ‘what should we do to get you to buy our gear’ question perhaps? Let’s have some faith in the product and the people who consume it!?

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