Zappos, a brand I admire along with many others I'm sure, just announced a partnership with Magnify to build a video community around customers (here, TechCrunch can tell that story better than me

As the TC story points out, the challenge to attempting engagement at this level is always getting customers to actually commit to do something (recording themselves as they break open a box from Zappos in this case) and then actually follow through.  But, unlike many similar efforts, Zappos also kicks in a $100 gift certificate to winning video each month as an incentive.

But $100 incentives are not what's going to make this contest take off initially (that's more likely to be a celebrity kick-off at SXSW with the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Kevin Rose, and Chris Brogan).  So that leads me to my question – is content co-creation (or whatever you call it) really as populist as we make it out to be?  Do the creative buzz-generating ideas we read about in Ad Age, Brandweek and across the blogosphere gain traction because of the ideas and a deep connection to consumers or is something else also at work such as celebrity or just plain having enough money to get the momentum going?

I'm not questioning Zappos or anyone involved with this initiative. I like it for what it is, but back in the real world, where we're asked every day to develop new ideas that "go viral" or "tap the power of consumers," it's important to understand that success may hinge on more than a creative idea or engaged customers. More often than not, success leads to more success (the payment of dues) and brands on the rise should set expectations accordingly.  They must pay their dues before they can hope to strike it rich online.  That means starting small conversations – perhaps doing something basic through Twitter or getting that blog up and runnning – before swinging for the fences.

I guess what I'm saying is that you have to walk before you can run.  Keep that in mind as you plan, execute and set measurement goals for your next big creative initiative.  Aim high, yes, but you may have to pay some dues before you're ready to walk in Zappos shoes.

– Posted by Scott Bauman