Chas Edwards put out a great piece via Mediapost yesterday. I thik it speaks more to the participatory nature of things like group blogs and community sites, but it touches on a number of principles we've incorporated into our Conversational Marketing practice. (Oops, I've already said too much...) ;-) My favorite part:
Lenovo figured laptop buyers would have a greater inclination to buy a product they had a hand in designing. But instead of flying wannabe industrial designers to company headquarters at Raleigh, N.C., Lenovo set up a site that allowed buyers to vote for the color (black or titanium?) on the next line of ThinkPads. A small but significant step toward conversational marketing: the company gave its customers a mechanism to talk back. As I write this, 183,394 people have voted so far.
This example mirrors the one I've been talking about for years with DigiTech and the GSP-2101 Discussion List. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, that community was so persuasive that it ended up being the catalyst for a meta-language written by tech-savvy list members that allowed people to share programs and save them to external devices. Additionally, list members directly contributed feature ideas to future product releases. A customer has got to be pretty dedicated to pull off something like that.