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Imagine you’re on vacation and stop in a small store to shop for souvenirs. You may say hello to the person working behind the counter, get their advice on what to buy. You may chat a bit about the town or get a recommendation for lunch. It’s pleasant. But when you leave that store, your relationship with that person is effectively over. That’s not a bad thing. It’s transactional. But both parties know that at the moment of the interaction.

Now imagine your relationship with your longest standing friend. It’s been built up over years or decades, with hundreds or thousands of interactions of all types. There’s a deep trust there. There’s a shorthand by which you communicate. There’s a commitment from both of you that this is a relationship you’ll both continue to nurture and draw value from.

You can have either type of relationship with your consumers as part of a participation experience. In fact, over time, you will probably want a mix of both. The key is being clear about what you’re asking and offering — and making sure that the value each participant is drawing is connected to the effort they’re putting into your brand.