How to Co-Create Brands with Tom Webster

tom webster on brand

“Your brand is not something you create. It’s a story that is told by you and your customers. It’s a co-creation.” As part of his role at Edison Research, Tom Webster spends a lot of his time carefully examining the relationship between brands, their customers, and the media landscape. We discussed all of this during his recent visit to the On Brand podcast.

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About Tom Webster

Tom Webster is Vice President, Strategy and Marketing of Edison Research with nearly 20 years of experience in media research, marketing strategy, and product development. An expert in qualitative and quantitative research techniques, Webster has directed hundreds of studies in nearly every major U.S. market and worldwide.

He has conducted research for some of America’s most popular media programs, including nationally syndicated shows such as All Things Considered, The Takeaway, and The Bob and Tom Show. Webster also has experience in consumer research and new product development, and has worked with leading companies in the pharmaceutical, high tech, and financial services sectors to provide key competitive intelligence, customer requirements, and marketing strategies.

His work has been widely published in both print and online media, and he is the author of several widely quoted studies, including “Twitter Usage In America” and “The Podcast Consumer Revealed.” He’s also co-author of the Edison/Triton Digital “Infinite Dial” research series and the new book The Mobile Commerce Revolution.

Episode Highlights

“You can’t escape branded content.” As Tom notes, last year’s Infinite Dial data showed that people felt that Facebook had gotten worse. In that time, Facebook has reworked their experience, showing you less branded content and hard-sales messages and more of your friends’ feeds. Did it work? We’ll find out with the next release of the Infinite Dial on March 4th. Sign up for the free webinar now.

How does Tom help create brands? “Your brand is not something you create. It’s a story that is told by you and your customers. It’s a co-creation.” The missing piece is often knowing what your customers value. “You can’t know this without talking to the people.” Tom and his team help brands identify this through quantitative and quantitative research as well as ethnographic work.

As Tom illustrated, when there’s story alignment between company and customer, you have a brand like Taco Bell. In the absence of fit, you have a troubled brand like Oldsmobile, which ultimately lost control of its story.

Forget the Serial buzz. Edison has been studying podcasting for a decade. Through Edison’s Share of Ear study, Tom has learned that while podcast listenership is increasing, it’s not necessary coming at the expense of terrestrial radio. “The average listener consumes 4–6 hours of audio a day (music, podcasts, radio). The average podcast listener consumes over 6 hours of audio.” They are listening to more podcasts and more audio overall!

“I’m bullish on the medium.” As Webster explains, it’s a more personal relationship with your audience plus advertisers find shows that fit their audience segment and buy ads free of waste (listeners you wouldn’t want your brand in front of). Small to medium-sized businesses looking to start a podcast should first make sure they have addressed what we discussed earlier in the show — do you know your story? More importantly, do you know what your customers’ think of your brand? If so, focus on their needs and where you can create value and make that a core element of the show.

What’s the biggest mobile opportunity for brands? “It’s not a technology play.” The biggest opportunites for brands when it comes to mobile is looking back to the ethnographic data Webster referenced earlier in the show. “Watch your humans.” What do they struggle with? What can you make better for them? For example, “The Starbucks app addressed the fact that waiting in line sucks.”

What brand has made Tom smile lately? “Jet Blue always responds and does so with personality.”

To learn more about Tom Webster and his work, check out the Edison Research website (links to the latest studies are there as well). You can also visit Tom’s blog ( and follow him on Twitter.

As We Wrap Up …

Recently, listener Seth Sparks said about our January Brand Zeitgeist show, “I was starting to script a vlog about Iowa in the media lately. Now I feel like I don’t need to. Awesome work!” Thanks Seth!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!