Crowdsourcing for Branding?
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When Jeff Howe wrote his article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” back in 2006, he never imagined the impact his neologism would have.

Crowdsourcing, “art” of outsourcing tasks that traditionally one employee would do to a numerous group of people or community through an open announcement, has had great acceptance on the Internet lately. It has gotten into the eyes of big corporations being used to solve product & service design problems.

Crowdsourcing is based in the concept that each person is “owner” of little bits of information that when put together in an organized matter, a better idea of possible solutions for a problem can be obtained.

The “crowdsourcing” model consists in the production of problem resolutions through problem element diffusion over open announcements. Users (mass) form communities and suggest solutions. Once the best solutions are categorized and chosen, they are taken into account by the “crowdsourcer” and generally, participants get “rewarded”.

As a research and market study tool, crowdsourcing has been very useful, fast and financially feasable. Through crowdsourcing, companies can get to know what consumers really think and loyalty bonds can be built.

Our main concern with crowdsourcing is that, when incorrectly used, results can generate huge opportunities. Companies must be very careful when using this tool specifically when thinking that crowdsourcing can solve “everything” more efficiently or with less risk.

We are specifically concerned about this tool being applied openly in companies for branding problem solutions.

Some companies through votes, let consumers “rank” branding development proposals. Consumers lacking on information about corporate strategy, goals and unprofessional management of collected information or collection processes can mislead these initiatives ending up in negative effects.

Companies like GAP & Tropicana have examples of crowdsourcing with negative results. When they put proposals up for general consumer voting, they where forced to go back to their original branding initiatives arguing that their consumers had a great level of fidelity with their original brand. Even though, this might have been their initial intention, special attention must be put when submitting a brand for public approval.
For us, creating a brand goes far beyond a the historic knowledge and opinion of the products, services as well as the company future opportunities from the perspective of a group of people. Crowdsourcing might be an excellent resource for great idea generation, but a brand execution and development must be in the hands of people with the abilities to see the “big picture” and ability to analyze and associate each of the “puzzle” elements in order to develop a proposal that not only appeals to the customers but one that solves the problem.

Ethical, social and financial implications for this methodology have caused a broad debate. In our opinion, the best strategy for a branding problem lies in obtaining a solution based on the internal strategy guided by the company directives.
Crowdsourcing might offer a “photograph” of the present’s needs but can generate opportunities in knowledge of the future strategies, innovations and direction changes for a company which come from within, mainly from “inside” commitment to them.

There is no doubt that mass knowledge will be always useful for problem resolution. In the case of branding problem solution, special attention and care should be taken when using crowdsourcing tools to avoid compromising the solution and project success in complying with its objetives.

References:

Sauer, Abe. (2010). Friends Don’t Let Friends Crowdsource a Brand. [En línea]. Disponible en http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2010/04/19/Friends-Dont-Let-Friends-Crowd-Source-A-Brand.aspx

Lipman, Gregg S. (2010). Crowdsourcing Their Way Into One Big Mess. Brandweek. (Octubre, 2010), p 26.

Clark, Nicola. (2010). Testing the wisdom of crowds. Marketing. (Julio, 2010), p 13.

MacLeod, Stephanie. (2010). Is this clever crowdsourcing or just a genuine brand gaff?. Marketing Week. (Octubre, 2010), p 12.

Fisch, Martin. (2010). Antennen 1 (Westend). [En línea]. Disponible en: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marfis75/3556367411/
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