Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby – have I lost you yet? Of course not! We all know these as top-selling Ben & Jerry’s flavors. What most don’t know, however, is that all of these flavors were developed by B & J fans. Yes, an excellent example of crowdsourcing.
Ditto for Dunkin’ Donuts. When the company wanted to highlight the “mixology” of its Coolatta drinks, it asked consumers to help them develop a custom Pandora channel: “The ultimate Coolatta summer music mix.” The result: 300,000 new Facebook fans plus 40,000 Pandora users spent 14,000 hours listening. Importantly, the Coolatta has grown in popularity ever since.
So what is crowdsourcing? Coined by journalist Jeff Howe in a 2006 article in Wired magazine, crowdsourcing is the social media equivalent of the open casting call, but in the business sense. When done right, crowdsourcing provides an excellent opportunity for companies to engage consumers and connect with their fans in a fun, engaging way while promoting products, generating ideas and encouraging brand advocacy. Crowdsourcing is the consummate demonstration that “we are listening,” and it makes consumers feel valued, but there are also huge financial incentives for the companies and the participants.
In the past, ideation (had to use that word just for Lindsay) could be very costly; brand testing, focus groups, product design could cost millions of dollars.
But in 2009 at the height of the world’s economic crisis, LG used crowdsourcing for a new cell phone design. The total cost was $75,000 ($20,000 for the winner, $10,000 for second best, $5000 for the third and $1000 for the remaining 40 contestants).
In the past few years, the popularity of crowdsourcing has continued to grow. It provides an inexpensive opportunity for companies to gather great ideas for less. And for those individuals out of work, many take advantage of the crowdsourcing marketplace to freelance, earn some money and get noticed by big-name companies.
Yet, this phenomenon is not for everyone or every company.
You need to be prepared to manage the process, which can be expensive, time-consuming and produce poor quality ideas if not properly implemented. While collaboration and cooperation are wonderful, the wisdom of the collective does not always generate the most innovative ideas. Carefully selecting the right ideas that keep you focused on your business strategy is important and takes time, and your organization may be better served by an agency or partner in strategy than a crowdsourcing campaign. As with any program, crowdsourcing must be evaluated as a good fit for your company’s culture and business goals.
And, of course, ultimately someone has to take the lead and make a decision. We don’t want Atlas Shrugged!
In the spirit of crowdsourcing, share your ideas, thoughts and favorite examples in the comments below.