There’s been a lot of excitement about the marketing technique of crowdsourcing — getting fans, customers, and freelancers to create your marketing content for free. But while “crowdsourcing” may be a buzz word, there is nothing new about companies putting important business decisions to a vote.
We’ve all heard about the wisdom of crowds, from Wikipedia to an entire industry of television voting shows attempting to prove the theory. By involving their audience to make them feel like their input is listened to, a brand can build advocates and perhaps come up with ideas they wouldn’t have had on their own.
However, it doesn’t always go right.
For example, Mountain Dew was ready to launch an apple-flavored version and decided to get the crowd to share their wisdom by asking them to name this new variant. As you’d expect, the crowd decided to show their wit instead, by submitting and voting up names that wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a bottle of soda — along the lines of “Gushing Grannie”. The vote was quickly cancelled, and the soda was imaginatively named… “Apple Mountain Dew“.
If crowdsourcing can backfire even in the hands of experienced, major-company marketers, should small businesses give it a shot?
The quick answer is yes, but keep it simple. The long answer is to have a plan B — your backup plan should consist of trusted, experienced individuals who will evaluate the results and offer strategic insight that should be heavily weighed in the decision-making process.
Don’t misplace your faith in the crowd. We need to nurture and fund inventors and give them time to explore, play and fail. A false idea of the validity of the crowd’s opinion reduces the motivation for this investment, with the uncertain belief that companies can tap the minds of inventors on the cheap.
Crowdsourcing is great for generating ideas; but when it’s your money on the line, true democracy is a bad idea. When you are building a brand, seek out a strategic partner who is truly vested in your culture, social ethos, and future.
Published online at Community Newspapers.