What do Nabisco’s brand positioning for its Mini Oreo cookies, Doritos’ Super Bowl ads, and Anheuser-Busch’s Black Crown beer all have in common? Besides being three ingredients in what sounds like a half-decent Saturday night for anyone over the age of 30, all three products’ marketing were shaped via crowdsourcing.
By now, most marketers are familiar with crowdsourcing — tapping into passionate fan bases for ideas about new products or ways to market new products. Crowdsourcing’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks mainly to the power of the Internet and social media and how easy the digital universe makes it for fans to share ideas with brands.
And, while the concept of fan-generated marketing seems hotter than ever, it’s not a new phenomenon. Books like “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” — about a 1950’s housewife who all but put her 10 kids through college by writing ad jingles and entering contests hosted by various brands — are proof that marketers have been tapping into the creativity of fans for a lot longer than most people realize.
The most notable example of modern crowdsourcing in action comes from Doritos’ annual “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, which challenges fans to make the brand’s Super Bowl ads. The results are shockingly good, with the winning spots typically contending for the top spot in most Super Bowl ad polls. (The 2014 “Time Machine” spot was among the best in recent years, finishing at #6 in our annual SpotBowl poll.)
Lay’s is another good example. Beginning in 2013, the PepsiCo-owned brand has taken a classic marketing ploy — asking fans to create a new product flavor — and turned it into an annual crowdsourcing case study any brand would envy. The “Do Us a Flavor” contest netted four million fan entries in 2013 and more than 14 million entries in 2014. Sales are up, too. According to the most recent I.R.I. data ending on August 10, scans of Lay’s products increased nine percent over the previous year.
The success of the tactic begs the question: Should advertising agencies feel threatened by the popularity of crowdsourcing?
My simple answer to that paranoia is “no.” In fact, I believe agencies should embrace crowdsourcing and recognize it as a new weapon in the marketing process.
Do our clients look to us to come up with great ideas? Sure. We know modern marketing, and we employ the most creative thinkers we can get our hands on. But should we, as agencies, turn our backs on consumers and their potential to also churn out award-winning ideas? Definitely not.
It’s important to remember that, while fans might be the ones coming up with winning ideas, it’s up to the agency to curate that content to find the diamond in the rough. The agency also needs to own the strategy and communications of the brand, making sure everything is integrated and driving in the right direction.
In the end, our clients expect us to bring them million-dollar ideas. Whether that idea comes from your creative director, your digital media manager or Julia Stanley-Metz of Sacramento, California, the only thing that really matters is whether the idea can build relationships with consumers and make a positive impact on your clients’ bottom line. We do all the time for Turkey Hill Dairy, using its blog, the Ice Cream Journal, to test new ideas and collect fan feedback on new flavors and product lines.
Whether you’re with an agency or on the client side, I’m interested in your thoughts on crowdsourcing: which brands are doing it well, should agencies feel threatened by it, and should marketers embrace it — at least as long as consumers are still willing to share their ideas?
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