Artificial reefs are structures that are created underwater by man. Most often they are created by submerged shipwrecks, but materials such as rocks, rubble, old tyres, and even disused tanks are also used to create underwater structures.These reefs form inviting structures to which reef organisms such as algae and invertebrates like barnacles, corals, and oysters want to attach themselves. This attached marine life then provides an attractive habitat for further marine life, such as fish – creating a living ecosystem with the manmade structure forming the structure upon which marine life then adds and evolves the habitat.
This is essentially how co-creation of a brand can work. Companies can create a brand structure (the artificial reef) to which people will be attracted, and who then find the invitation compelling enough to then attach themselves (the coral) to the brand. In attaching themselves to the original brand structure people develop the brand – the brand has become different through their additional content. With multiple people adding their input to the brand its character evolves, but it still retains the underlying, original structure. Further people (the fish) are attracted to the brand through the input of earlier stakeholders (the coral) – the brand is constantly being developed and redeveloped through the input of all stakeholders.
When marine resource managers create artificial reefs they create structures that they know marine life will find appealing, and in places the marine life they want to attract can be found. The structures are created with the intention that they will evolve, becoming more attractive and appealing environments for marine life through the involvement and input of the marine life itself. The marine resource managers don’t control these environments, but they do manage them to ensure they are developing well.
This is how brands, and importantly the value of brands, can develop through co-creation.
Images © Florida Sea Grant