Disrupting the digital engagement model for competitive advantage


The following article is written by Andre Hugo who is co-founder and CEO of micro-jobbing service M4JAM. With over 22 years of business startup experience, the article reflects on his experience at M4JAM with Hugo discussing the importance of disruption for digital engagement.

Digital disruption is often spoken about, but rarely seen. Companies like Wikipedia, Uber, AirBnB, and eLance are often cited as digital disruptors but very seldom emulated. Yet when you look into the business models of these companies, they all have a common element. They have all partnered with their customers, baking them into the business model as the strategic element. This is their competitive advantage.

By doing this, these companies are changing the way brands have done business with customers for decades. This change goes deep into the root of business process, organisational culture and customer psyche, and requires leadership that is prepared to risk moving into uncharted territory.

Disruption, in other words, is hard. The momentum is against you. Yet therein lies the opportunity for brands to truly engage with their customers by taking the leap of faith and give the customer the power of choice. Choice to buy your product, to provide direct feedback, to engage and more importantly the choice not to engage.

The challenge of course is that if you do not disrupt your own business model, someone else will. When we launched M4JAM in August 2014, this is exactly what we set out to do.

Read more: M4JAM: the new startup that uses micro-jobbing to solve SA’s biggest problem

M4JAM breaks big projects down into small tasks that ordinary people complete whilst going about their daily routine in exchange for cash. It taps into the collaborative power of the community which is made up of a broad section of the South African population. M4JAM operates as a Platform as a Service (PAAS) as opposed to an app – and has partnered with mobile social communications platform, WeChat. This placed M4JAM in the centre of a social conversation, while at the same time adding value to the broader WeChat community.

This platform now allows brands to directly partner with their customers without having to go through a massive business process redesign. It’s a clever disruption. Let’s explore some of the elements:

Real digital and mobile engagement

Today, everybody in South Africa has access to a mobile device. It is the screen that they look at most often to connect, to share, to be informed and to entertain themselves. For brands, mobile gives them a direct one-on-one connection with customers and can also provide key data about them. M4JAM offers an engagement route via mobile directly to the consumer on an opt-in basis. Placing the consumer in control of the brands that they are prepared to work for and what price point they are willing to work at.

It improves on the social media marketing model by simultaneously enabling crowdsourcing and personal engagement. And because M4JAM actually pays participants for their engagement, it taps into one of the fundamental human triggers – money.

The digital agency model

A good digital agency will typically build your digital assets, buy advertising space on media platforms and manage a creative content strategy within this space. M4JAM flips this agency model on its head. It offers connection, brand advocacy (sharing), and allows brands to collaborate and partner directly with their end consumer with minimal effort.

Read more: M4JAM’s next big project? Crowdsourcing recycling

As an example, there is huge demand from brands for user-generated content to use in their campaigns. By using M4JAM, brands can now crowdsource content from their customers and give them an incentive to do so by paying them a small amount of cash for the content that they submit. So, they can ask individuals to go out, share a picture or tell a story, and turn this into a broader traditional and or social media campaign.

Out of Home (OOH) media audits

To audit OOH media, someone is generally hired to drive around with a clipboard and a camera and charges about R250 per billboard audit. It is costly and time consuming. M4JAM offers a huge opportunity for OOH media companies to drive this cost down to a fifth of the price by taking advantage of the crowd and the geolocation feature on your phone, which gives people who are close to the billboard site the chance to audit it and make a quick cash. Given that it is audited by a brand’s potential customer, the OOH audit can now also include market research and brand activation elements as part of the audit process.

Merchandising now becomes a brand activation and market research opportunity

Because M4JAM supports geolocation, photos and facilitates meaningful direct communication with individual jobbers, it cuts costs and significantly enhances the process of auditing and managing merchandising audits across the country. Now you can add depth to the process, with surveys about whether respondents could see the products properly, whether they use the products, what they think of them and would the buy them. For the average shopper, it’s a great opportunity to make some extra cash during their shopping trips.

M4JAM presents massive disruption to a business model people presume is static. But this is what technology has done for centuries — it redefines business, currency, even legislation, and eliminates middlemen who can’t justify their value.

The value M4JAM brings to OOH media audits, merchandising campaigns, research and the creation of marketing content is huge. It is a no-brainer for brands — they can access market research, brand activation and marketing in one process whilst directly engaging with their end consumer in real time.

Imagine brands being able to change campaigns and dynamically price products based on real-time client feedback and demand.

Image by Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr

Andre Hugo


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