Crowd-Sourcing is fast gaining acceptance as a means of marketing in the community of advertisers, marketers, branding experts and strategists. In its most basic form, it refers to companies involving customers in business decisions – be it in the form of promotion styles, advertisement campaigns, expansion ideas, product innovation etc.
So, what are the reasons why crowd-sourcing is used more and more frequently these days? The following section talks about the possible benefits of crowd-sourcing, along with prominent examples of each case.:
1. Involving Customers – Making them feel Valued
Whenever you involve the customers in something which they know is critical in the company’s sustainability – business ideas, marketing ideas etc – the customers feel good about it. They like the fact that the company values them enough to involve them in such decisions. It may not be their own ideas which get executed in the end, but just having the chance to do so, thrills them a lot.
For instance, Frito Lays created a wave during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 by asking its consumers to come up with new flavors of potato chips, Out of the many ideas they received, they handpicked 6 of them, and launched them in a special combo trial offer, giving credit to the specific customer who gave them the idea. All the viewers of such an ad, who had contributed ideas for the flavors, get an ego-boost for being included in the decision making, for playing a miniscule part in the company’s success.
2. Greater acceptance by the masses
In general, when something (an ad style, a product variant, a logo design etc) is imposed upon you as a viewer/user, you instinctively rebel against it, trying to remain in a state of status quo. You tend to be unhappy at not being given a choice on something that affects you as well. Crowd-sourcing helps add credibility to any such thing that the company does – like a new launch, or a new campaign – aiding in smoother acceptance.
So, when the Indian Government decided to open its doors and invite entries for the design of the Rupee logo, they were able to circumvent a lot of criticism/rebellion against the logo. This is because, sub-consciously, every Indian would think – “one of our own has created this logo, it has not been thrust upon us, we ourselves had a chance to submit our entries”. It will mellow the blow of rebellion which was expected when 120 crore people hold opinions on the same issue.
3. Leveraging popularity amongst customers
Remember the ‘Me & Meri Wali Maggi’ campaign? In this campaign, Maggi invited its users to send in video clips/scripts illustrating how and when they have used Maggi Noodles in different situations and circumstances. These videos were reprocessed into TV Commercials and the scripts were condensed and put up on Maggi packs. This brought to every user a recall of the uses we put Maggi to – noodles for a tired mother, noodles as a change from hospital food for a wife etc.
With this campaigns, Maggi was leveraging on its immense popularity amongst Indians, and making them feel as a part of a big community, all members of which relish Maggi noodles. The sense of belonging that comes with using a highly popular and successful product builds further loyalty in a user.
From across the borders, Old Spice’s Isaiah Mostafa campaign also leveraged a lot of popularity from its ad-viewers, by going heavily viral – discussed here
4. Gathering Third-party opinions to get business ideas
When marketers/strategists in a company keep thinking about a product for too long, there is bound to be some stagnation in the thought process. Bringing in outsiders to think about the business brings in fresh new perspectives and new lines of thought. It helps uncover areas hitherto untouched by the business strategists because their thought process tends to get limited to a bubble.
So, when Starbucks launched the My StarBucks Idea campaign, inviting customers from all across the world to submit them some ideas for their business, be it for product development/improvement, enhancing the StarBucks experience etc., they got a huge repository of ideas from all sorts of people around, a sizeable number of which were easily implementable, worthwhile ideas. So whenever a local StarBucks manager wants to “do something different”, he simply logs on to the site and checks out possible ideas for his store.(The website is in public domain – http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/ – do check it out, its an amazing campaign)
Think about the reaction of customers whenever StarBucks publicly launches one of these ideas, giving credit to the concerned person. It sends out a message that the company values the opinion of its customers enough to invest in them. This creates a feel good factor about the company in the consumer mindset – what more do you need from a campaign?
5. Getting a feel of the Consumer Pulse:
Interacting with your consumers in any way helps the marketers get an idea of what the consumer feels about the company and its products, what are the pet peeves, what are the favorite features etc. These campaigns allow the marketer to gain significant and true feedback from the customer which can be incorporated both in the product technologies as well as marketing campaigns. Being in touch with consumer needs helps the business grow faster.
Hence, crowd-sourcing, alternatively also called as Co-creation, is a concept which is here to stay. Making the customer an interested party in any business decision can only mean good things for the brand and the business. It is like social media in this sense – social media allowed customers to speak up and give opinions, and if these opinions were handled well, especially the negative ones, then the brand equity soars. Similarly for crowd-sourcing, if handled well, it can create wonders.
But, a word of caution – Crowd-sourcing helps when the consumer already has at least a positive opinion for the brand. He should be in a frame of willingness to contribute to the brand and its upliftment. If consumers in general don’t like the brand/product, involving them in business decision will be more of an exercise in self-demotivation than leading to the above-mentioned wonders.