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by Julie Cucchi

Wiki is the “it” word of the moment. (Toss a few “wikis” around and mix in a “crowd sourcing” or two for good measure and you’re all set for the holiday parties).  From Wikiversity to Lyricwiki to Shopwiki to Foodwiki, there is apparently nothing you can learn, do, buy or play that isn’t wikified. And Wikileaks are spilling all over us. 


Basically, a wiki is a simple piece of software — 5 little lines of computer code— that can be downloaded for free, allowing a website to be edited by anyone. The essence of the concept is collaboration. I’ve been thinking about our wiki world and how it applies to branding for a while now. Today I heard an interview with Tom Rosenstiel, the Director of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on the ramification of Wikileaks. He was discussing  how news organizations like the NY Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post etc. are adapting to the new climate. (Stay with me friends, this really does apply to branding).

Rosenstiel pointed out that journalism can no longer afford focus on publication alone, but must  incorporate discussion. Technology has changed journalism at both ends of its lifecycle. At the front end, as journalists prepare their stories, they now ‘crowd source’ by enlisting highly sophisticated and relevant members of their audience, making their reports far more insightful and accurate. At the back end, technology creates a post-publication that is more robust; the interactions and reactions are vastly amplified. The news is now significantly influenced, at both ends, by the community it serves. News organizations, far from becoming irrelevant as some have predicted,  are now critical as they must synthesize and contextualize a sea of information and discussion. Rosensteil predicts that journalists will, because of this, find their work even more rewarding. 

What can today’s brand stewards learn from the evolution of journalism? Journalists have found that their audience is no longer passive, but is actively engaged in the news. So too, brands have increasingly come to understand that the key decision makers around their conference room table must include the consumer. At both ends. The crowd sourcing that enriches journalists’ investigations is exactly what needs to replace the old fashioned—and wildly dull—tool that focus groups have always been. Social networking allows good researchers to find and talk to far fewer, more relevant consumers. They can then engage in the kind of dialogue that actually yields insight rather than data. Similarly, consumers’ reactions to products and services in the market, can be (must be!) a vital part of the brand’s evolution. Not only do those of us who manage and work with brands benefit from this interactive process, but consumers feel deeply vested in the brand.

Just as in journalism, this new dynamic will have its challenges. It’s not easy to include a crowd around the table.  But wikiculture is here to stay. Become a wikibrander and you’re bound to reap its rewards.


The Author


Julie Cucchi is co-founder of 98pt6, a brand expression agency. Visit .

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