Consumer-focused marketing, like social media, is growing exponentially as traditional marketing, including marketing for building materials, takes a big leap into the digital world. Can you imagine life without Facebook or mobile apps that allow seemingly outrageous ideas to become a reality? I think it’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way.

One thing that has stayed the same is the true focus of marketing: the customer. Going back to the basics, businesses spend money on marketing to gain customers. More customers mean more money, which is the goal, right? From the beginning of consumerism, positive customer interactions were the main focus for businesses because a happy customer led to word-of-mouth referrals and more business. Marketing’s goal hasn’t changed – it’s how we get there that’s different.

Looking back at the Grateful Dead’s approach to marketing, many businesses want to feel closer to their fans or customers by getting them involved in the way they market themselves now and in the future. Just like the Grateful Dead included fan-created artwork on posters and even on album covers, businesses are giving customers a real voice nowadays. And they’re using the newest digital technology to do it.

One company diving right in is Chiquita. With a marketing mission that aims to get customers involved, the banana distributor asked consumers to design customized adaptations of its iconic, 50-year-old blue product sticker. From a group of 50 voted upon finalists, 18 grand prize winners were ultimately featured on bananas nationwide.

The contest, which was promoted on, drew more than 500,000 visitors in its first six months. The site offers fun tools that engage users by allowing them to create customized face stickers, play a “Banana Boogie Battle” video game, create and post Chiquita-themed videos, and chat with other fans.

Other companies, such as the 100-year-old Knoll Bouillon, are following suit with consumer-generated content on its product labels in the form of recipes. Similarly, Mountain Dew is interacting with its customers and supporting local skate shops at the same time with new can designs.

What do consumer-influenced labels mean for the relationship between businesses and their customers? It means that businesses form a deeper relationship and get to know the people who are using their products every day. It’s still all about consumers and probably always will be.