Here’s a starter list of company-centric buzzwords and their co-creation alternatives. Read on and let me know if you have other terms to add to the list. I’ve started at the top of the alphabet, and I’ll look forward to sharing the latter letters with you in the coming weeks.
Advertising campaign: hammering customers with one-way messages aimed at numbing them into passive acceptance of an intellectualized view of the company’s value developed by top executives, and then creatively interpreted by an advertising agency guided by its desire to win a prize at the Advertising Awards ceremony.
The co-created alternative: in the development of an ad campaign, replace some of the agency’s pony-tailed types with some imaginative, equally pony-tailed customers, who’ll work with you to develop material based on their actual experience of your product and will do it in the hope of becoming half-famous.
Alignment: cracking employee heads until they agree with the top-down message and accept that they’ll be assigned metrics they don’t in any way influence. Use “metric” rather than the now passé “measure.” Definitely stay away from “KPI” (key performance indicator), reserved for veterans of failed quality campaigns of the ’70s and reengineering drives of the ’80s.
The co-created alternative: let the experience of rank-and-file employees co-shape the strategy map and its measures, on the silly argument that since they’re the ones doing the work, they’re more likely to align themselves effectively if they’ve participated in the drawing of the line in the first place (with some top-down guidance by the chiefs).
Branding: apply a burning-hot iron on customers’ foreheads to encourage their identification with the company’s products and image. Tattoos on intimate body parts are second-best. T-shirts are for wusses.
The co-created alternative: allow the brand to “bubble up” as the collective experience of all customers, employees, and stakeholders, on the Woodstock-like belief that if they rock with each other in the mud for a while, some good music will ensue and you’ll sell lots of records, particularly to people who wish they’d been there.
CRM (customer relationship management): guessing at what customers like by bombarding them with mailings, calls and visits until they buy something, therefore revealing a “profile” that entitles the company to send them more stuff they don’t want at increased frequency and at lower cost.
The co-created alternative: let customers co-design the relationship they want to build with you, i.e., move away from using hackneyed pick-up lines in the singles bar, sign-up on eHarmony, and find the type of love your potential partners are looking for.
Cross-selling: getting customers to drink more from the fire hose, on the argument that since the hose is already there, it costs the company less to market that way than if the company had to find you in the first place.
The co-created alternative: everybody hates being sold. It makes people cross (this is the little-known etymology of the term cross-selling). But people will buy experiences. The best experiences are co-created. Customers don’t mind a hose if they get to design the hose experience (or the hose itself).
Data-mining: the art of gathering FBI-like data on you and reducing your bubbly personality to the sum of transactions the system can identify about you. Blame data-mining if your last unpaid credit card bill at Wal-Mart and your back-stage-at-Led Zeppelin possession conviction disqualify you for a discount at Jiffy Lube.
The co-created alternative: news flash! Customers know more about themselves than you do. Rather than poking at the ceiling to try to figure out what the woman in the apartment upstairs is about, get up there, knock at the door, and see if she’s willing to share some part of her life with you. This can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.