Crowdsourcing: Blending Outsourcing and Marketing
How Food & Beverage Companies Use Crowdsourcing to Drive Product Engagement
09/22/2011 – Using contests to engage consumers has been a device of marketers well before 2006, when the term “crowdsourcing” was first coined by Jeff Howe, then contributing editor for Wired Magazine. Today, Howe is a professor of journalism at Northeastern University. He defines crowdsourcing as "the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call."
Crowdsourcing takes many forms, but is often presented as a contest. Just yesterday, TGIC Importers and Montes Premium Wines announced a contest to design a wine label for a Special Edition Montes Carmenère wine, which is set to be distributed to the U.S. market. In addition to bragging rights and a trip to Chile, the winner of this contest will get the opportunity to make wine with three-time Winemaker of the Year, Aurelio Montes.
Contest stakes are sometimes raised as was the case with The Innovative Company's hot sauce label contest for the company's newest sauces, Radical Red and Deadman. As we reported earlier this month, the label design winners received recognition and a promise of royalties from the hot sauce sales.
Another notable crowdsourcing contest was developed earlier this year by UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism's News21. Branded "Rethink the Food Label," the university asked the public to restructure the nutrition facts label in order to make it user-friendly. The judges were looking for designs that were informative, instructive and memorable.
Jonathan Lakin, CEO of the customer engagement platform, Global Dawn, suggests "Crowdsourcing is essentially game-like behavior. It is competitive and collaborative, just like team sports." While game-like, the continued employment of crowdsourcing in the food and beverage industry is explained in part by crowdSPRING co-founder Ross Kimbarovsky who says “The open innovation and collaboration of creative crowdsourcing is a more viable option for small business owners looking for efficiencies, brighter and better ideas, and savings to the bottom line.”
Websites such as crowdSPRING.com, designcontest.com, 99designs.com and designcrowd.com point to the growing web-based utilities that have existing relationships with a design “crowd.” These sites offer straightforward solutions for small businesses that want to develop a unique label, package design, logo, and/or website.
There are cautionary notes if you are contemplating this outsourcing solution. First, by definition, crowdsourcing is public and generally works best when paired with social networking. Therefore, if you are developing a product in secret, this solution has extremely limited value.
Additionally, depending on how you structure the contest, your company may be relinquishing some control of your brand or message. Consider PepsiCo’s dilemma related to their 2011 Super Bowl commercial contest. A single commercial entry drew criticism from a religious group which started its own social media campaign, petitioning PepsiCo to remove the commercial from the contest. Crisis was averted as both PepsiCo and the commercial creators who had developed the spot apologized for any unintended offense. The winners were announced in January, 2011 as planned. The offending commercial was not among the winners.
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